I gave four prompts to collaborating poet F. Douglas Brown. He conducted three minutes of “fevered writing” with each prompt. Here are the results. These words comprise the lexicon I’ll use to create my dis•articulations poem.
Swiss Chard is in season. We have recipes.
The wilt of green mixed with red is the dance my skin does underneath it all. and the recipes go that deep, too. my mother once explained and cursed me not to share. Sharing comes easy for some. to trade family charms is never allowed so I wonder about the breath my grandmother made and the one my mom will make. what will I keep or broadcast?
Bowing in the Church of beauty
The light descends through a small portal of amber stained glass, and hits the gold rays that stand between a snarky angel and St. Theresa. She is in ecstasy, forever as the stone’s hearth steadies and grounds. The beauty is the light on the dark parts of marble made into flesh. Flesh of stone as if fresh, as if breathing and alive. The saint, she bows to the angel’s gift. Or God’s gift through him. He must be a messenger. must be dutiful in ways that make the self forget it has its own desires. But when that what you have to offer and delivers gives this much piercing joy, the task takes all of you—until you lift with the gold and light.
A homeboy that likes to burn rubber
Burn the dog or just the bristles. Burn the band but not the conductor or the lead singer or the roadies or the 200 fans. Bring the good oil that lets the white smoke grow tall to the roof. Burn the roof. My homies from the bay understand this. We sat for days dreaming of club we called, The Firehouse. Heard chants scream: “We don’t need no water— let the MF’er burn. Burn MF’er—Burn.” That was years before the oakland fires or the Ghost Ship warehouse drew heavy flames. I grew up with a view of the East Bay. Could see it quiet glow. What rubber would this this homeboy smell if that room was still mine?
Behind the Drama, here we are
“Get up on the down stroke; everybody get up!” & behind me Drama; behind me trickster as Trump but not as Douglass. He [Douglass] leads to where we are or ought to be. The Downstroke—hot & greasy. Funk takes & twists. Gifts & wants more—Turn this heat out. Groove — One nation under a chorus— the sound of revolution kicks its heels to the ground work. Collective marching could be a groove —a dance. We are the stuff boogie makes. Party time. Soul time. Spread this groove over Protest. “De-feet” and “Toe Jam.”
F Douglas Brown gave four prompts to me. I conducted three minutes of “fevered writing” with each prompt. Here’s what I came up with. These words comprise the lexicon that Douglas will use to create his dis•articulations poem.
We tell ourselves we’re solid but really, we’re shaking all the time. We think we are fixed forms but really, we are trillions of energy points vibrating together at one frequency, so we convince ourselves we are matter. Matter is a delusion but we cling to it with tenacious fervor. We make shrines to it and invent mythologies. We sing songs as if our musical breath could hold everything in place, but like the Yoko Ono song, “everything is shaking.” The planet is just one giant quake swarm and thus we are set in motion.
Ransack yourself and place where you stand
I just can’t find anything in this junk heap that used to be my self. Unsorted piles lean and topple onto boxes of unfiled experience. A thick layer of dust has settled, holding us all in place. They tell me to shelter in place but isn’t that just another duck and cover? What did we say in the Sixties—“In case of nuclear war bend over and kiss your ass goodbye.” Who can find places for all the detritus of this late empire? How are we to contain the atrocities?
Acres of Skin discusses the history of medical experiments on Black prisoners
It’s a history that has not been recorded in the usual tomes. It’s a history whispered in screams across unending nights. It’s a history of erasure, a history of genes not passed down to successive generations. All conducted in the name of science, a pretense of objectivity, of curiosity, of cruelty. When they were forced to stop the experiments on Black prisoners they took to conducting research on animals, no more real to them than the eyes they refused to look into.
Sometimes we’d rather have noise
and sometimes we’d rather have rain, but we don’t always get our druthers, and the silence pierces us like tomorrow’s bad news. Noise is better than our irregular heartbeats, better than the fetid wind of our breath. The clanking machinery of thought—what noise can cover that up? The factory on 24-hour shifts, the surrounding hillsides lit up with the fire of its engines. We don’t want the factory to shut down—all those cells thrown out of work, left to sit on dilapidated porches and suck bitterness.
Douglas Brown of Los Angeles is the 2013 Cave Canem Poetry Prize recipient for Zero to Three (University of Georgia 2014). He also co-authored with poet Geffrey Davis, Begotten (Upper Rubber Boot Books 2016), a chapbook as part of Upper Rubber Boot Books Floodgate Poetry series. Brown teaches English at Loyola High School of Los Angeles. He is both a Cave Canem and Kundiman fellow, and his poems have appeared in several journals and magazines, including the Academy of American Poets, The Virginia Quarterly (VQR), The Chicago Review, Bat City Review, Cura Magazine, and Muzzle Magazine.