a pacha kucha after Fela Kuti

[DOG EAT DOG (Instrumental)]

Inside the coffin was a tomb. Inside the mouth of the bull-
horn was a tomb. Inside the stems of the violets: tombs.
Inside the thin blue shawl of the afternoon and of the dusk.
Inside the words awe, freedom, territory, fatigue.


In one village I came to a woman shaped like a bird
and was given a knife as long as a feather. In another
a woman spit a curse to break me like an egg, its sweetness
running between my fingers like something the body makes.


I was born in the year of the war between wars.
I was born to a religion I thought could not hold me
ransom, to sermons walking on the back of the wind.
I was pulled from death’s pocket and cradled in its hand.


My father was the sunlight now, but I couldn’t understand
a word he sang. When his teeth were removed
and tossed glittering along the tracks of the trains,
I was quiet as the indicted. I myself was the music I lacked.


In each village when I tried to tell them I was an American,
AmenAmenAmenAmenAmen spilled like ash from my mouth,
and they knew what it meant. Everywhere I was made
to dance like a man carrying his head before they cast me out.


To be holy. To be united. To be united. Could I ask or answer you,
I would be three things at once, I said to the coffin. To be uneyed,
unheavied, and alive, I said. To be the light on all the disappearing.
Words. To be burning and washed away. To be lit inside.


I walked, I walked, I walked. I was not noble, heroic,
compassionate holding the shadow of a name in the world.
I’d seen the scalp scorched by the way things used to be.
Including the smoke rising from the mind like a wing.
Including the hair burned off its ability to dream.


I carried a child’s imagination, the uses of money,
the philosophies of grace, the paradoxes of revenge.
I carried a prayer book with words as small as the screws
in the glasses of the blind. I carried bad bad bad bad
badbadbadbad things, and the weight made my teeth ache.


For Jesus Christ Our Lord. For the Grace of Almighty Lord.
For the wound and the bitter spit of the accused,
for the scar resting against my wrist for the rest of my life.
Because what I feared was in me was in me.
I wanted to lie still in the body like knife.


What I liked about its weight was what I liked about the sky
as red at the beginning of the day as it was at the end.
The gravity that was guilt or history. The darkness
that was smoke or cloud. The burning that was washed away.


In one village vultures clapped their beaks at me;
they clapped their wings like the silly flags of providence
twisting against themselves. The body was soft,
the body was what I bore, the body was what I ate.


Inside the red of a feeling and irrevocably so. Inside the blood,
inside the yolk which is a warning. Inside the ghosts.
the field of oaths and conviction, the contracts of the state
going to business and busying the breath,
the eyes basked in the aesthetics of blindness.


I almost described the leaves shining on their bones
and the snakes roasting in their sheaths to the coffin.
And the valley where all the headstones were smoldering.
But there was nothing left to be said, so I said it again and again.


I carried it on my back like a man with on wing.
I carried it against my chest like a door with no housing.
With the blood which was its contrition. With the iron
which was its name. With the hunger that was its belonging.


I was born with my fingers on the latch of a coffin
hot with the sunlight spilling upon its face, locked
like a window in a building on fire. For Jesus Christ
Our Lord or against him. For the Grace of the Almighty.


My coffin the moth house, my coffin with no message
or lover. My coffin cooled by stars spilling on its face.
My coffin the mouth. My body could have fit inside its body
and drifted downstream to the center of the earth.


After my mother sang the only hymn she knew,
she tore her black dress open the way one tears
a scab from its address, and I saw the skinny knife
she kept hidden between her breasts.


I am not in the village filled with the prophets. I am feeling
elegiac for our cataclysms, the blood in the yolk
when the egg breaks, the grief stripped of its shell.
I am filled with the hallowness of holiness and breath.


I am the inside the village reddened by readiness.
Inside the word tear and tear and fatigue. Inside
the terror which makes territory evaporate.
Where the sunlight braiding my scalp is on the mind.


He dead yeah nownownownownow, the villagers sang,
when i tried to tell them I was alive.
He dead yeah nownownownownow, the villagers sang,
as I carried my coffin toward them. He dead yeah
nownownow, the villagers sang, as i carried it away.


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