The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2015

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JUL-AUG 2015 Issue


Whispers and prayers

Could the whisperer have been a foreigner? The one suggesting
To this young White Man enter a historic House of Worship
Calmly kill Black people. And so he did kill nine Black People

My friend was searching for an international conspiracy
Those meant to disturb America—fanatics from the East
Fanatics from the West?

How would Amiri Baraka claim this?  No, he’d say
Only White Americans (storming fronts) could make
The Young White Man do so much harm. 

And harm he did—gun a gift or was it purchased—not
Even a killer caught can tell which version of truth is

But this truth can be told of nine Black people in Bible study-
Men and women of great character.  A state senator.  A librarian.

A young Couple happily married.  Their loving friends engaged
in their faith,  in this world.  One hour together.  One last hour

Now awaiting glory.  Were they to leave this way?
Were they to sing in heaven’s choir?  We ask ourselves
In prayer, how to love those for whom love seems

Nearly useless.  In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald
Says of the Buchanans—they are “careless people”
It is that care less ness, this disregard for love
That makes us turn to the living Christ for solace,

In prayer to find more ways to be caring people
Ones worthy to join these nine good people
Who could not rend this killer’s resolve

His desire to play the martyr and his utter
Failure to make his whispered evil matter,
In his dreamed desires—war between the races

The death of Blackness. His soul less ness
doing the Devil’s work.

Out of bodies whose blood is stronger
Than what the killer’s oath whispers

Praying voices
Nine Black Voices
Ringing forth









Ellen Gallagher’s Wall Installation, Studio Museum 3/6/15

Wigs  become  beards
Or planets with furry rings
Oh Saturn’s waves—orange and red
Thus, carelessness with ritual leads to early deaths
The Family in perpetual slide towards oblivion

Who will lift you up
If you cannot carry the deity’s
Symbolic Staff?

Who will lift your beard
Or flip your wig

Each week a beauty poses
Each week her name is posted
Not once is she Aphrodite
But she could be Erzulie

We have to    have to have    our own
Gods  * Goddesses.  Our own snake handlers
And snake oil peddlers.  We have to    you know
Have to    have our own    you know    pleasures    in this pitch.

I know that Ebony and Jet
Were there before (prior to) Negro Digest
 Negro Digest begat Black World
Hoyt Fuller understood
The importance of peddling new ideas
The symbolic staff of Black identity

In small towns in Arkansas and Mississippi
And big cities too: Atlanta, Dallas
Memphis, New Orleans

He could see these writings crashing
The Big Blank Walls.
While the wigs went from flip
To Afro and beards hung scraggly
Or furry covered like Saturn’s waves –oh  mighty race men

And lanterns glowed in Kingston
Accra, Johannesburg.
Bright lights and fiery
Tremors—sequins wrestling in nets
Huge topographies of string and stance—
Made for people perilously acquainted
With  the Atlantic’s token of possibilities.

Lit fires and the smoky haze
Of heavy eye shadow, moustache thin
Anxious for the gown with the
Heart shaped bodice—oh  and
Tie up the white buck shoes laces --
summer photographs

Lotioned hands stroking the invitations
For Official Independence Day dances.

Ghana in sun rise, the empire in twilight.








Patricia Spears Jones

Patricia Spears Jones is an African-American poet, playwright, writer and cultural activist. Her fifth full-length collection, The Beloved Community, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press and A Lucent Fire: New and Selected Poems (White Pine Press) continues to find readers around the globe.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2015

All Issues