2015 Spring Issue


Photo by Smith

Photo by Smith

“unforgivable blackness”

the more things change
the more
things stay the same:

they looked at us
and called him “the black menace.”
Jack Johnson was the embodiment of their
worst whitemare—
a black man who dared
to be free.
a black man who could see,
who saw himself black,
saw himself bold, saw himself beautiful and
stubborn, swimming
through white foaming
rapids, battling against raging racist currents,
jumping relentless roaring waters into
a calm but shark infested sea.

if they only knew.
they do not know how
to know.
do not want to know—
they destroyed Black Wall Street in Tulsa.
burn in Philly—
(“grab on to whatever is left …”)
random-white-men lynched James Byrd in Jasper.
stand-your-ground lynched Trayvon Martin in Sanford.
police lynched Michael Brown in Ferguson.
black-story-well says
another one of us is always next.

broken memories. broken dreams.
wandering visions.
wondering thoughts.
remembering who we were—
who we have become?
ugly in our beauty. brutal in our love.
seductive in our poison.
radioactive to the touch.

unforgivable blackness:

primordial blackness.
blackness so black so bright
so, “this little light of mine,
i’m gonna make it shine”

still shining in us
for reasons
even we
fail to understand …

for Jack Johnson (1878-1946)

mwatabu s. Okantah