Ivory Tower

Equally loud as the excluded voices,
the unchallenged vector of
repeated stories ricocheting
in the cavernous space where
there might have been other eyes,
other colors, other pains,
other eloquences with which
to climb out of the pain.
The sledgehammer words,
crushing words, with neither
nuance nor secrets
never been fed solids,
never knowing grace in opposition
or breathing in layers,
just white light
in a white room
with all white corners
and one door that only
opens outward.
White poetry on white paper.
Uniform cadence beating
ad nauseam. Outside,
the world writhes and articulates
in a box that quickly
becomes inadequate for
an orchestra of revelation
that anyone would know better
than try to contain.

The Riots Against Forgetting

We are bullheaded
and make paper planes of pages
torn from history books
and sleep on the ashes
of burnt symbols—
the snatched hijab,
the defaced flag,
the mangled fist,

Voodoo dolls in
the age of social media
for the purpose of their
spiritual genocide

and the words
spray-painted over with words
that oppose,
that silence,
that bite off and chew
and regurgitate intentions
as clickbait and satire,
that round up voices into a chorus
then fling their causes
to drown
in misappropriated time,
in intimidating jargon,
in rising sea levels,
or in ignorance

each day is a shouting match
between two different pains
but then the two streams
of blood both
go down the same drain

and underneath
all the smoke bombs
and stinging eyes and nights
that bear witness to just
how grotesquely the human
spirit can bend before
something breaks

are the hearts shoved
down the throat of the big,
well-oiled, relentless machine,
hearts desperately grasping
for foothold in the echoes
of faiths once solid
enough to kneel on,
now sublimated into toxic
vapors of propaganda
stealing through windows
someone forgot to shutter,
making the children sick
and the parents high with
habit-forming rage

the hearts with the most
basic of languages,
the last surviving unscathed
and universal symbol,
with ignored wisdom and
overworked arteries
and the dichotomy of choice
of whether to keep beating
or stop.

I wish they talked more.
I wish we listened more.

Supremacist Logic

And so the people have spoken
and what they said is
they don’t want me here.
We’ve been tried
and found guilty
of existing,
guilty of being brown
guilty of loving a brown person
guilty of giving birth to a brown child
guilty of being willing
to work hard in exchange
for a piece of that American dream
guilty of getting an education
guilty of being eligible to be hired
by American companies
guilty of being able to earn
enough to buy a home
and afford to eat American food
and clothe our family with
American brand names
guilty of trying to write our own story
that involves rising above the
narrative of slavery,
of oppression,
of poverty,
guilty of persevering with
picking apart the stereotypes,
guilty of wanting to live
with dignity,
guilty of seeking
our rights to life, liberty,
pursuit of happiness,

guilty of happiness
without their permission,

guilty of knowing the truth,
guilty of knowing,

guilty, guilty, guilty
criminally unworthy,
dirty for being different,
guilty for thinking we’d ever belong.

I can hear them planning
my execution.
I can hear them forging my chains.
I can hear their chants
to build the wall, build the wall.

The people have spoken.
Their fear and hatred of me
have taken the world’s stage
and roared into the microphone.
They think it is loud enough
to grind my voice to dust.
But our silence is pregnant
and we just haven’t answered yet.

Your Moral Imperative

This is not the time to let your
anger go to sleep, what with this
explosion of hate and blasts
of shrapnel that burns like fury,
bent to murder or maim your spirit
and rape your future into fear.
Brutality spawned behind doors
of generations-old closet racism
that just recently festered
out in the open, and given fangs.
They snarl at every other corner,
every traffic intersection and
crouch in shadowed alcoves
of your sacred sanctuaries,
wielding badges and guns
and brandishing privilege,
claws all sharpened and thirsty
for the blood of your children.
Slithering around your shared
spaces, spitting blatant ignorance
like proud rhetoric and lusting
for the next opportunity to
disrespect your life’s struggle.
This is not the time to let
the fight in you be lulled by lies
or be seduced by sweet-talking
traitors who intend to keep you
quiet and meek and trusting
of the system and irrevocably
enslaved by the appearance
of comfort in your oppression.
This is not the time to be staring
glossy eyed into the distance
and hope that the voices of
a handful of heroes are enough
to turn the tables, or be satisfied
that your hashtags are
scratching the surface
of the ugliness whose brunt
you assume will be handled
by the next ones.
There are no next ones.
There will be no one left
if you spend any more days
standing in the fallout of this
deliberate and methodical
annihilation of everything
that belongs to you, everything
that is rightfully yours.
This is the time to build, to rise,
to take it all back, to break it all
down, to throw their stereotypes
at their faces, to love your brother,
to love your sister, to realize
the strength in your numbers,
to feel the power and the greatness
of your ancestors pounding
in your veins, to stop selling
your beautiful self short,
to stop running back into the fog
where the lines between their
impunity and your forbearance
are hazed up on purpose
to deceive you, just because
it’s all they’re willing to give.
Feel indignant. Be fed up.
Get outraged and for Heaven’s
sake, don’t take their words
as empty tokens for your justice.
Not today. Not anymore.

A Shotgun Wedding

Something borrowed
something given
something stolen
from the ones
who stole it first

and their children

something blue
spangled with white stars
red and white stripes

something old
as echoes trying to find new voices
as messages once written in stone
now erased
for reasons less than noble
and talking winds bearing colors
that won’t fit in boxes
and a history that will only
carry so much weight
before it breaks
and draws the blood
of those who won’t remember

something new
coveted grand skylines
towers of many Babels
speaking in market researched
monotony selling the same dream
built on shoulders and bent backs
of children of the new slavery
borrowing from a future
one does not own
to try and bury the past

trampling all its treasures
with lead boots and shells
of expensive wars
and scars
handed out like charity
to the least common denominator
and consolation prizes
of medals and monstrous lines
for rights
at the VA

weeping mothers
and steel faced orphans
line the aisle
as the captive daughter of Zion
force fed with junk food
and pregnant with revolution
marches down
pulling a bridal train
of generations-long oppression
and tears

16 Silences

To echo as the light had echoed
on the hour when it was all
that was left in the house
that was home to stuffy silences
and stray bullets
of dreams

to feel what the hush must have felt
when it fell
in the narrow gaps between gunshots
brushing past the last words
snatched from his lips
and the certainty that he was dead

to speak his name
a year too late
and be the anger drawn like cursed lots
on the lottery of living
and being kept in the dark
like dirty, lie stained secrets

to believe what the city believes
when it takes up the fight
another day

to bleed on the edges of the torn open
blindness, and replace
one handicap for another
and not be afraid
to ask for change
like children
who look at the leafless trees
and ask questions about the future
as if the connection were
as natural to them as
opening their eyes after
a night of sleep

Set against a Leonid Afremov Backdrop

So many times I have
awakened within a daydream
only to realize
that we’ve made it,
we actually made it;
so many times I have marveled
at how far we have come,
more than the oceans
we have crossed,
the miles we have flown
across the face of the sun,
but the continents
less tangible and
more difficult to overcome:
chasms between cultures
and thousands of words’
worth of bureaucracy
and we faced them all
like bullets,
sheltering each other and
walking fearlessly
across the battlefield
in steadfast synchronicity
from opposite ends
of a story
whose beautiful ending
is written somewhere
in the middle,
tucked among dogeared pages
in the shape
of our darkest torments
and typeset with promises
received and treasured, then
broken and discarded, then
rescued from the heap
of the ashes we have
repeatedly risen from,
to serve as reminders
that the many times
we gave ourselves
and the many times
we came so close to becoming
what we’d always feared
are worth retelling
if we give a little bit more
for every second chance granted,
after all, life is only
as large as we make it
and we have to turn ours
into no less than a legend
that our great-grandchildren
would want to hear every night
to tuck them in
and help them dream.