henry 7. reneau, jr.
I am America. I am the part you won't recognize.
But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky;
my name, not yours; my religion, not yours;
my goals, my own; get used to me!
. . . handcuffed lightnin' and put thunder in jail.
That sharp-faced boy from Louisville, KY. Cassius Clay
become Muhammad Ali. The king of sting, & spiritually F.O.I.
shootin’ tombstone bullets
from a rumble swept up in exultation of itself, His bravado, filmed
in split-second celluloid frames of time : “the Anchor Punch”
at 4/100ths of a second, & Liston KO-ed, coldcocked in the first.
Ali, stood up for us (huddled on the conveyor belt feeding Viet Nam)
by standing up for himself : I ain’t got no quarrel
with them Viet Cong! Left jab/right lead, swingin' ball & chain—
an axe-handle pistol on a graveyard frame. Ali float
like a butterfly &
sting like a bee! Signifyin'!
What’s. My. Name!? The taunting question
that made Liston & Patterson,
Oscar Bonavena & Terrell,
wish the goddamn bell would ring. The greatest
short poem of all time : Me. Wheee! Left jab/uppercut & a flurry
of punches! Ali shuffle as he please. Got the black girls in a tizzy &
the white girls follow swoon. The baby figure of the giant mass.
Of things to come at large,
when black folk had to be patient . . . wait,
for a Colored water fountain, or
a gas station rest-room break : swallowed by blind hope, &
many miracle miles from freedom. Ali.
Said what he meant, & meant what he said : I Am the Greatest!
Like Mile Davis, Black Jesus jazz : walkin’ on water!
& Bundini Brown, signifyin' shout : “Rumble Youngblood,
The Shooting Range Of Virgins In Tiny Boxes
They don't want to believe
the world is ending. That something
in the soil has soured. The thing with smells
is you get used to them &
then you don't smell them anymore.
Most of us wanted to escape
into the lives we believed we wanted
(an introverted malice of self-interest)
a grasp of paradise
that seemed as though
in a little while the solution would be found.
if they denied a thing long enough
it would disappear
& then a new & glorious life would begin.
would absorb then filter
what would overwhelm us. The blood &
grief & salt-stained tears. Wolf-
like a holy place of blue stained glass.
The errant arc of lightening
a chemical imbalance of indifference.
But what about the foreign poverty
contaminated with unexploited
bombs & mines? The Divine physician
reordering a scattering of nails
to cancerous flakes of rust
colonizing a discarded bike. The children
of the bombs &
bullets taught to wield an AK-47
like a smolder of umbrage in each &
every breath. Like a holy place
that's been desecrated.
Something in the soil that has soured.
The arbitrary lines of borders,
fenced across once unpolluted water, a glacier
melting so fast, submerging shores
a thousand miles away.
The fathoms deep crush of doubt &
fear: the dragon coiling stomach nausea of
roadkill maggot-froth of butterflies
nervously flitting aflutter with anxiety (en/flocked).
The arbitrary boundaries, wanting to be God, that,
despite their permanence, are constantly
giving way (the groan of steel
like). The only complaint I have about social justice
is its algorithm, which
tends to bury its slights
in my niggas’ needs.
The premeditated way
Amerikkka weights time, energy, & money
onto those people. All we are
is the Abacus slide
of media-labeled life &
death, bated breath &
Scrambling through the bitter-
sweet of poison & balms of momentary joy. The fierce
of things that gnaw: gunshots, grief, the mastication
of failure. The times we have been called _________.
The double standard how it feels when you just can’t win, &
the pallid indifference in human faces, like apparitions
floating, mooning past me. Watching iPhones replace cigarettes, &
everyone, everyone talking to the air.
I am the clenched fist
of all the wounds that cartography my palms. A limb
burdened with larval cocoon trembling
after a butterfly's eruption. Umbrage-
like calderas are depressions formed by implosion
or bellow of bruise
I have wished to kill with a thought.
Consider: status quo centrifuged to terminal velocity: take/
repeat. Politics & prayers
are not designed to deliver us from evil &
just because you know better
does not make you an activist.
A bright &
the roughened attitudes of the disenfranchised &
lie at the heart of first impressions.
Even an apology: I'm sorry
can become a refusal to be guilty, an easing
of ones conscience. & yes, I have been told how radical
for boldly reciting poems
that everyone in the room already agrees with.
The Plight of Small Humans in a Vast Cosmos
If you don’t want to inflame via images of the behavior
then you have to stop the behavior.
—Maggie Nelson, The Art of Cruelty.
Amerikkka has trouble
identifying Black during the day. We be
a lot too arrogant,
& a little too fuckin' wise (a post-racial meta-
phor communist radical militant
that redeems hate as a politically correct nicety
that kills from the inside out. Justifies the splayed
chalk-outlined body &
the po-lice chief
lied into the microphones,
repeated by the media-
labeled us criminal, law-
breaking thugs, or
But we have our own given names
that sound nothing like
thug or demon
extensive furtive movements or
in racial profiled
while everyone watches)
The post-Citizen Picnic
of crowd amassed, the congregated cell-phones,
brandished to looky-lou
what body cams seem to never catch.
The police choke-hold &
handcuffed the prone body
been shot eight times,
across the social media,
after the child made to be still
& like it,
crossed out/ Lord no!!!
but gone to a better place? Crossed over Jordan,
from where he /she
never really belonged or wanted to be,
& the internal investigation
ruled “justifiable” as dying while Black.
But you'll find us
on the jobs no one else wants to do,
our statures hunched downward,
the weighted gravity of Diaspora square pegs
forced to fit Eurocentric round holes, &
the open-mouthed coal of our dissent,
like a car crashed mangle of metal
around our telephone pole smolder of umbrage. You'll find us
at the flashpoint of
po-lice manhandled &
riot, our upraised fists still pugilistic as sass;
an affinity for disobedience with a rock in one hand,
an HDT.V., a pair of status-brand sneakers,
or locked & loaded Molotov in the other. You'll find us
against the odds
(a generalization of stereotype) on the corner of
Hope St. & Chance,
a fifteen clip gat in one hand &
a penitentiary dope sack in the other.
You'll find us in your Nigger lease work farms,
the county jail house, prison or on parole.
You'll find us cooling on metal gurneys
in your morgues,
the historical passenger
in Uncle Charlie's landscape. You'll find us
at another funeral,
wearing a T-shirt
bearing the graduation picture of the deceased. Our cell-phones
at 90 degrees to our grief,
texting a hash tag: #blacklivesmatter,
until the next statistic is front page news:
Amerikkka has trouble
identifying Black during the day,
because we are as many as they can think of,
plus one more;
so they watch very closely at night.
This Is Not A Non-Violent Suicide Poem #2
These are cities where the concrete seems to
go on forever/ overflowing
the gutters/& coating the streets like saliva
/ So much gauze/haze/gray tox/
issss/ city & other particulates
methane the air/ But the people there /in cahoots
brandishing the fuckery of fossil fuel exhaust
trapped in the doldrums /
of becalmed workday weeks (salivating/
like Eve in Eden
/ her wanting starved for more & more/
much more /)
& still believe they'll be dead /before
the shit hits the fan
The righteous postures of guest-
expertise/ disguised as swear to God/ to tell
the truth/you want to hear /Filling hollow hearts
with sermons of doom/ Thrusting a 12” dick
into their might/miss/a/dollar anal
anxiety better than porn
But /most of U.S. believed it/ because they
said it /on the TV /Twitter-texed
it from the Oval office/ Flashed a badge
said/: it was part/of an ongoing investigation /gave them
the right to bold-faced lie
This gravity manifested matter /after the fact/:
you too will come to know / the internal
saboteur rising phoenix-
like crepuscular light / Up & up /& upwards from
the tried-our-las'-nerve sermon on the need for
calm & the cellphone video cult of follower feeds /like amassed
candles flickering sorrow
into the exhausting darkness of thoughts & prayers
/ The false platitudes feeling nothing/every
thing/something all at once/ while
some problems only have a violent solution/ to kill
with a thought /burgeoning shotgun blast-
like from my chest
/after the umpteenth Black man-child gunshot splayed
by white cop/ & ruled
by in-house “investigation” /to be justified &
& prayers read from cue cards /like we were never really there
The latest mass shooting/: a white man
with a legally purchased gun (poppoppoppoppoppoppop . . .)
/brandishing the 2nd amendment
of Stand Your Ground /at the festival/concert/workplace/
house/nightclub /movie/ or church/house/
like a catechism spoken in semi-automatic/: swords beaten into
/produced to bullets/ soon became a prayer /to the worth
of a soul dispossessed/: the 21 grams
/ crepuscular as
the heart/swell wish to bottle it
/& save it forever /But something crippled ancient/ & blind
to the value of human life
/ pierced them through with many sorrows
henry 7. reneau, jr.: "I write words of conflagration to awaken the world ablaze, an inferno of free verse illuminated by my affinity for disobedience, like a discharged bullet that commits a felony every day, a spontaneous combustion that blazes from my heart, phoenix-fluxed red & gold, exploding through change is gonna come to implement the fire next time. I am the author of the poetry collection, freedomland blues (Transcendent Zero Press) and the e-chapbook, physiography of the fittest (Kind of a Hurricane Press), now available from their respective publishers. Additionally, I have self-published a chapbook entitled 13hirteen Levels of Resistance, and my collection, The Book Of Blue(s) : Tryin' To Make A Dollar Outta' Fifteen Cents, was a finalist for the 2018 Digging Press Chapbook Series. My work has also been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net."