The Lie About the Poet Who Told the Truth

“My job as a poet is to tell the truth. To tell it, as Audre Lorde wrote, with as much beauty and clarity as possible. I want my work to enter listeners through the heart and gut. My job as a poet is to wake myself up and take responsibility for learning the truth. That means doing hard work, looking beyond headline stories, being willing to interrogate data, structure, systems. Then, it’s my job to create the conditions, in my poems, where others can wake up to those truths. It may not feel good. I’m not here to make people feel good.”
–Shailja Patel

Remember the blackness that was
pinned to us and how the fury-borne figure
pulled apart the shady clouds, our eyes,
fixed by her fingers toward the sun,
had begun to see—THE TRUTH!

Words were poured into our empty,
words like, “rape is a despicable act!”
and “war kills!” An awe bloomed within
as we interrogated with—THE TRUTH!

And we became compassionate
chimps, thanks to the great
sputtering mouth marking
the nerves with a passion
noble and admirable. No rape
became, no war ate, the sun
and nature became pleasing
and good. And all because of—

Summer Poem

Gerard passing through the fence,
the air’s nice and Gerard invites him-
self to look, sees his father’s stone.

A face with vines hangs, no longing
for sight—it’s just there. He was
peaceful with the knowledge.

Gerard walking forth, knows the gliding
warmth of here. Summer isn’t the sun
and its gentle information. But,

A sound reaches him. Gerard is now
old, the sky becomes different
and he can’t find the fence.

The Substance of It

Did you notice God in the face
of the flame? The holy
throat of the storm belching
black? The divine in the drowning?
Perhaps, Abraham did.

But no one can know Abraham,
just the engine that blasted
his heart. The import of a light’s
glowing is woven by the blank
bodies of shade, and so is your love
to God made by the preservation
against the shadows of your self—
Abraham’s love was made greater
by his plunge into the engulfing–

00000000000And God is there
to move the flame toward you, to make
sure the love is great. The enraged
suckling of your cancer is conjured
by a need—His need for a love
immeretricious. But what is He
if He needs the imperishable
devotion? And what are you
to accept the role? I guess I cannot
know Abraham.

Art is Subjective

So, there is nothing
that can arise from this
except for the ultimate
leveling: Maya Angelou
and Wallace Stevens: equals,
until opinion renders
their worth.

And the canvas colored
by Magritte’s vision is equal
to a child’s fecal matter
framed in a special place,
until your eye comes
and favors one over the other.

Yes, I’m ready to accept
this fate if it means no one
can ever declare
that my turd stinks
and makes the air faint.

Brave Polemic on Poverty

Imagine: the beggar’s bones
lurching across the dampened
roads, lurching across the land-
scape, untouched by the guise
of dignity; you’re owned
by his eyes—I’m sorry.

There’s light out now, no
troubles for the bones, a chair is there
to comfort them. His body creates
color. The shadow doesn’t cling to the wall
of his memory. It’s gone. He’s gone
to modest things—I’m so sorry.

Something settles within
you. Do you remember the hope
that you tried to pull? But then it happened,
and the beggar lost his role.
There is a need there. Too bad
he became you and I.