A Plenary

Weave Movement In Suns.
More. much better.
better properly.
Evening Praying (your lands language was)
Amen. Thank you.
Hear Reason’s Reunion: Hand.
Interpreter hand. Home handed all hands
Coming Together.

Years Section You Up.
“No, I want you to stand up.”
Assistants Applaud Africa.
weak dancing.
Leadings? Table Them.
Dormant Blessings Derail Us.
Agree Diversity Well. 

Hear Us.
Tasted Was Thank You.
Silence Was Well.

The words in this poem were taken from an address by Robin Mohr to Quakers gathered for a Friends World Committee for Consultation Section of the Americas meeting. Her message was translated into Spanish simultaneously. After each word in this poem Robin paused to let the translators work.



At The Back of the Road Atlas

Chicago to Las Vegas dates unknown.
Eavesdropping on someone else’s road trip.
It was America, is America, it will be America.

“I guess we solved The Free-will Question. (No)”
Hypothetical disillusionment—the Freeway makes monks out of men. It’s good, when it’s good to be wrong.

“Tiny bladder”
16oz every meal—It became an issue.
Stiff joints, playing Fight Club in the Super 8 sleep.

“What’s the closest airport?”
There is a fairground, and a strip
Where planes take off to spray the patchwork quilt.

“Little fuckers over in What Cheer, Iowa.”
Exit 201 begged to be taken. Population: 678.
Some towns have only known hard times. What did you expect?

“Yes, but at least we’d never have a reason to see her again.”
Women get easy to resent out here. Mile 937—don’t look
At the burning crash. Forget to call on your mother’s Birthday. 

“Oh I’d say another two or three miles.”
Tiny bladder. The country hangs along
Interstate 80, a cheap charm bracelet.

“What would Jesse do?”
In Bountiful, Utah did you piss in Salt Lake?
Take off your clothes but don’t want to get wet.

“I’m still a guy.”
Comfort in the 3am silence— it’s not about passing.
Nod to the U-Haul speeding in the right lane.

“What is cold and wet down the back of my shorts?”
Tiny bladder. Crazy straws and watered down whiskey.
Barely any rest stops past Des Moines.

“Tie the kids to the back of the limousine.”
What would you name them?
One night stands with funny labels. 

“Gunpowder and lead (lace)”
And leather. Every station is The Best Country Music.
They love it in South Africa too—something about the slide guitar.

Will you father miss his police scanner?
Roll down the windows so the smoke falls out. 

“The Virgin River: because it runs just fast enough”
Utah, Arizona, Nevada. Into the Colorado
Where it slows. What did you gain in these mountains?

“Your family and their fucking gum”
All these fat and shiny memories. Deep fried things.
Gum sticks, but you’re growing up, moving on. You found the road.

“Next time we know how to have fun on a trip,
We just go to a restaurant then hangout
In the parking lot taking Boomtime pictures.”

All text in quotes was found scribbled down on the last page of my father's Rand MacNally Road Atlas.



Aural Poem

Missed past a cross sum rode bee for hymn.
Dew knot trussed cymbals.

Weed bate hymn— width passed thyme,
Width colonels, uh with oven deer mints.

Weed frays hour currant tenor write—
Your knot hours, un heirless heroin.

Missed past a cross sum rode bee for hymn.
Dew knot trussed yore hart beet.

Cereal pieces a peer— rapt buy yore gays.
Uh handmaid lye, brakes sole pains.

Wee band uh whirled width cite,
Four cowered breadth ore rye manors.

Missed past a cross sum rode bee for hymn.
Dew knot trussed in God.



Citizenship From Below

The conquerors
keep easy
kinds of records—
that make it easy
for history to stay on the surface
just scratching at the paper trail.

I take solace in archeology.

As children
The conquerors—they
went to see the fossilized
dinosaurs foot prints on the banks
of the ancient river. It left such an impression.
And so they stomp heavy
in fear of immortality.
Hoping to invade it
but unlike the dinosaurs.

I take solace in extinction.

In their last will and testament
they request tall headstones,
afraid of their shadows
disappearing when they do.

I take solace in electric lights of citizenship shining up from below.

I was trying to write a paper about Mimi Sheller’s brilliant book on Haitian history making and resistance to colonialism.



Echoes of Tuskegee

I have a confession:

I wore blue latex gloves,
walked linoleum hallway from triage and
in the early California morning,
under doctor’s lax direction I
saved a woman’s life.

She was still alive
at least
when my shift ended.

I am not proud;
I am terrified.
of what it means to owe someone
nothing after the night shift turns in.
Of what it means to research amateur
on a stranger’s body
and never to say

“May I”
or “Thank you.”

Haunting me:

Alabama haunts
from the thirties to the seventies.
For 40 years The Tuskegee
Institute kept black bodies
in petri dish
share crop quarters
growing cultures of medical atrocity
—growing cultures of “progress.”

Brought to us
by Racialized front lines.

History has mouthfuls that
I don’t know how to talk about and
when I try to swallow—
I cut up my throat.

I should bleed out lab rats.
I should bleed out syphilitic sores grown on black bodies after science had a cure.
I should bleed out their children; sick by birthright.
I should bleed when surviving means breathing, but does not mean life.

My platelets—my whiteness
scab over like mercury and
underneath these seamless scars
we have not changed—

growing sores
on black bodies
after science had a cure.

Everything is syphilis,
from night stick, to
achievement gap, prison
bars, dreams unspoken,
fish tank overpass,
Martin, Garner, Ferguson.

There is no consent in social experimentation.
So how can I condescend to ask for consent?

I want to apologize:

You are probably dead by now.
You were maybe 40.
The Paramedics said you had overdosed on something.
You were unconscious when they found your body.

Your body.
I am sorry.

I know you had a life and
a story and
loved ones who remember you.

I know that your death is not a lesson and
I must learn to be better. 

I do not know your name.

I am sorry.

I know how your naked body fell
across the hospital cot
in coma humiliation.

 The doctor asked me if I wanted to practice CPR and
I didn’t say, “How is this practice?”

Your breasts spilling
milk over asphalt
away from my fists and
I didn’t cry, but
I should have.

I know how your broken breastbone clicks
in and out as I pump your limping heart.

 I know how half opened eyes roll back and
can’t make contact and
I don’t know how to tell you:

“Stay with me now.”

You were never here with me. 
Separate lives—separate lessons.

Did you had learn how to be victimized while I
was learning how to rape.


Yes, your heart began to beat again
as I beat your chest.
I do not know how long
you survived after that—
brain dead and pale blue-black
on the cot. 

I know there is nothing right
about living or dying
surrounded by white coat
strangers singing “Staying Alive”
by the Bee Gees
in bar room cacophony,
so a scared little white girl
can learn how
to keep the beat
on your still

I know the Tuskegee experiments
—echoes themselves—
echo through the Nation.

I say:

“I am sorry,” and
I cry and
pick my scabs.

Which will never be enough and
is also not nothing.


Some notes on my experience during a night shift in the Fresno E.R. 



For David, whose island is too small.


There are palm trees growing under the revolution memory of change. There are others, lying on their sides. Fidel He made saints of revolutionaries. Oh! The opiate, the irony. Made devotionals and sermons, statues, murals, movement July 26, birthday August 14.

–There is no propaganda here – He said. There is no advertisement. He said, –We do not sell, do not buy, do not own. –

If you lose the key to his culture, there’s a spare under the euphemism on the back porch. Wipe your shoes before leaving the house. ¿What language is used for the statues, the murals, the party on every block?

Your uncle moved to Germany.

Your mother saw Fidelito on the TV in the 90s. She was almost a woman. He reassured everyone, –Electrical kitchen appliances will be the Future. – He played with his dollhouse island. What are you doing Davíd. Rearranging furniture. Move the empties into the shipyard. Move the hurricane into the outhouse out back.

¿And what are you doing Davíd?

There are lentils in your mother’s coffee, cause the dictator He moved them there.

¿David, can you bleed breathe in your context?



She called his proto-name.
She would forever call his name
half cooked. For dinner.
On her deathbed. A pilgrim of a name,
she knew. Mothers sometimes know.
Her son’s namesake ended with D
and the promise of leaving.

Not her son.

Like swallowing a martyrdom,
you warned him not to grieve,
but mother, who hung herself out,
with clothespins, or a ribbon,
or the sinews of her love,
he wonders if you can
show him a place with out grief.

What can you do about a boy anyway?
What can you do but hope for him?



Rules for Davíd:

·      Guns go pow-pa-pow-pa-pow. Arrows go woosh. Stop making gun sounds when you shoot arrows.

·      There’s no such thing as parachuting season. What are you talking about?

·      We play War through the winter. We fly Kites in March, in July we kick cans for Fútbol, Cops & Indians all August, Go-carts past September, and Marbles before dinner any time of year.

·      You’re such a liar. No way was your head was blown off. I don’t see a scar on your neck. The doctors aren’t that good.

·      You’ve never seen snow. I know you haven’t.

·      You probably punched yourself in the eye. Carabineros don’t bother with little boys.

·      If you ever kill anyone you go to jail. You go to jail forever.

·      Eyes don’t go pop when you squeeze them.

·      Your fighting kite was not that big. I remember cause I cut it down. Anyway a kite that size couldn’t fly well.

·      Why do you always draw bleeding chickens? If you want to use my watercolors you can’t paint anything dead or bleeding.



Visto qué los Estados Unidos, en conformidad con sus deberes internacionales, esta preparada a tomar cualquier acción para promover la seguridad nacional y hemisférico. Así que aislamos al gobierno presente de Cuba para reducir la amenaza planteada por su alineación con los poderes comunistas.

 1962, 3 February. America of States United the of President, Kennedy F. John -

 Look at the Hyannisport

waterslide of freedom. Countdown,

                                                            countdown to Eastern Standard Time. We fall

after midnight we fall. There are tourniquets on every

limb, even around the neck. They didn’t know how

else to stop the bleeding head wound. Up

 to my ankles in survival, canned tuna

fish, peanut butter. Bunker.

Look at the Playhouse




The grieving child is of godlessness. When I was a child I thought as a child, hit and swung like a child. You were golden also. And death was death even so. La-la la-la. We sing over the stillness of our tongue. Quiver-timber-lungs. Laudanum: the traffic lights of _|_ and the tingling spiny gullet. We were tired then too —we were loosing lost things slower than pitch drips. The tears of a mourning child, a pinwheel legged boy with mangos like hands. Hold him till he goes limp to logic and crying like you. Just in & out.



(I'll see you around I guess)

 My vagina sunburned
the tops of your feet
when you didn’t wear socks to bed.

In morning
tragedies of surreal and milk anticlimax
we dawn the closet of impatience,
apprentice ourselves to getting on,
and fondle our food with distracted tongues.
We spit instead of swallowing.

Then you call your doctor.
I am a wrongly-placed, awkward, flopping thing.
I will think of singing
sea shanties into a shipwrecking—yours,

and your castaway
feet, bare on the tile, glow
red with a memory that didn’t
hurt when we made it,

but dressed instead,
I am vanishing
you to the angler fish.



My mother, The professor of childhood,
gave a lecture on Snow White.

My mother always sounds like she is about to weep.
Her students nod.
Mirrors mirror film.
was a metaphor for telling.
She speaks
by jumping off the edge of thinking deeply.
Walt erased all the spinning mothers.
Who does the telling anyway?

it’s a man’s world.
We held the apple in our hands and it filled with poison
It is called faulty pedagogy.
You teach about children,
so you know.
I absorb you
—with all your flaws.
You watch.
What is foreshadowing for, now that all the stories have been told?
My brother—
my father—
raspberry prologues into my belly.

 Hold me like newborn ears,
because the world whispers soft and incessant.
Tell me a new story now.
No place for jealousy.
No motive but love.

I like to go to my mother's lectures even though she says it makes her do a lousy job.



New Old Hacks

(you remember fighting)
oh god!
wouldn't it be like dying?
in a small boat.
you showed me a minefield
and told me how
you walked across it
every morning
on the way to doing
the things you love.

(you remember fear)
you had a lover once
a few steps ahead
with heartbeat
like steamroller
and diamond colored eyes:
just as
sure—just as
and when he was blown
you grew love letters
from the dirt
under your fingernails
and you cried
but did not visit him in jail.

(you remember defeat)
And you stopped
doing the things you loved.  
and you don't
check out books
from the library anymore.
you took a job at McDonald's,
and you fell off
out of the sky.

(you remember a future)

And now you tell me
what the turning of the century
did to us
you tell me a story
about this paranoia
that shattered your bones.
about a quiet
McCarthy era,
Secret Service
of maple trees
and revolution sugar
flowing out
on to the ground.

The repression experienced by US activists in the early 2000s is so seldom talked about. The paranoia and silence that was provoked during the Bush presidency drove many in to anonymity, splintering activist groups and Intimidating folks into disassociation from their friends taken as political prisoners.



Waking-up White

This morning I woke up
with a sense of my error.
In the bathroom mirror newly
tinted honest
this body
that is
of terrible histories—of stolen power—of inability to listen—of ignorance—of exclusion
even with her breasts and hips,
—tall above the rubble of the world.

waking up
in a body
that is oppressive
it goes.

I want to apologize
for my body
in its whiteness.
To say:
it knows not what it does.
As if–as if I could shed
this white
to wake up in a body
tomorrow that

is not oppressive everywhere it goes.

If only to be absolved of myself.
Pure, like I once thought I was.

I want to apologize. And
I cannot be sorry—
I should not be,
not for that.
Wouldn’t it?—it would be a lie.
As if I could disown
my skin 
by saying, “please excuse
my skin
it knows not what it does.”
But I know now
a heavy white sheet
Just as heavy justice harsh

is my body.
is part of who I am,

of me
that also

I carry
in my pallor
terrible history, stolen power, an inability to listen,  ignorance, exclusion.
Things that I cannot erase—
cannot reject with guilt or  “I’m sorry.”

What I saw in the mirror—
newly tinted honest—
was not my error alone.
My body is not wrong—it has been partially erased.

In some bodies
Society/a racist erases
what is unique—what is joyful—what is intelligent—what is caring—what is pure.

In my body
Society/ a racist erases
what is violent—what is marginal—what is afraid—what is oppressive—what is marked.

 I live in a white body
I am an oppressive force. 

I will
wake up tomorrow
and walk in
and out
of various rooms.