Bearing Witness

(this is not a poem, it is a journal in lines, or a riff):

Dark on the streets in Atlanta
The aftermath of the full moon
There was a wedding here in the courtyard
And an irresistible current of happiness
I can be anyone in this jump
I could be me
The doorkeeper knocks a taxi driver from dreams.
He’s up. A dollar is a dollar, or less than a dollar. This could be hell.
Once in awhile he has enough to curl up a funky green bill for a snort.
We careen the labyrinth through the dark.
The airport terminal is all artificial light
I watch a man who’d been up all night. He’s still rough as he clutches an overnight duffle. He’s got the party in him.
He’s dancing sweat.
Because security is insecure, we do not talk to each other
I instead acknowledge my lungs.
I had forgotten to breathe. I wait my turn in line
And buy People and a Starbucks
Here’s the most popular in current earth curriculum:
Standing in line 101
Remembering how to breathe: beginning, intermediate and advanced
Thuggery 401: the text is a popular magazine in the newsstand. The cover thug bears two black tears for two black lives, and a crooked stitch between his eyes. We’re supposed to want to be like him.
Get me out of here. We’ll all be gone soon enough.
The sun is throwing out a rope to pull himself up
Over the magnificent trees
These are the ruling beings of this place
Medicine grows everywhere here.
Can you smell it?
Brush yourself down and you are human again.
We lift off into the sky realm.
Do you remember? That was a life or two ago.
Then we are landing in Dallas. Two hours and we’ve crossed the Mississippi and they’ve killed King.
I don’t know where the hell I am.
Bury my heart at Horseshoe Bend.
Yes, there are still Indians in the South.
It’s not all black and white.
And then we’re landing in New Mexico.
I used to crave this red. It’s here where the poetry spirit found me
This was my heart.
We touch down and I flag a cab. I see the news:
A local institutional leader is hiring a pr firm to polish shit.
It will cost four million. We will all pay.
How much common sense could you buy with that?
How about kindness?
I unpack, take a break and meet a poet walking across the compound.
We compare our not-so-poetic notes. It turns out, polishing shit is a national prescription for bureaucratic incompetence.
Poetry is taking a dive.
I zone. I can see the Tallapoosa red with blood.
And what do I do with that?
And later I go see one of my oldest friends.
She’s lost her son. She is an island in a sea of tears.
Some are frozen. I see land birds. Eventually she will walk across.
Where is this magnificent boy who became a man?
Magical, isn’t it, how we emerge from nothingness
And return as breath.
Your son is dead.
How do you tell that to a mother for whom a child is always in her arms, with fragrant baby hair a halo on his head, no matter how time urges everyone on?
No matter the flicker trick of life.
We bore witness together to loss and grief as the sun fell back to earth again in this red land.
We became salt and tears.
We sat there in the quickening dark, waiting for time.

August 17, 2008 Sunday night

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