My History with Language

When I imagine borders

Copy of Gift



Children resume

The street soccer match

Check Point

It is the mosaic scene on the ceiling 

that helps you bare the line. & then you 

notice a single colored body building a 

nation amongst a hard-hat army of white. 

You recall receiving news of a relative that 

made it elsewhere, via waves, on a vessel too 

small to hold its burden. You imagine some 

ancestor must have made it here, via waves, 

to build a nation not their own. But you didn’t 

make it here with the trauma of a journey. Your 

journey was via wings, belongings strapped on a 

shoulder & rolled on four wheels. & after an officer 

inspects your passport & your body, his phone call 

escorts you to a separate room, while the mosaic 

scene observes the episode from the ceiling above.

Negative Thinking

––For Herbert Marcuse

The arts––

Contesting what is

Envisioning what could be.


And then there is the question: 

Where do you feel more at home at, 

South Africa or the United States

As if this really was a choice like 

sex or love on a first date, 

death or suicide on a battlefield

Pepsi or Coke on a summer day. 

The mornings after Orlando, 

Sterling & Castile 

I had the options of escaping 

into Masekela’s Thimela or 

submitting myself to grief & despair. 

I chose a third option: 

wandering on a wind swept beach, 

sand stinging my un-sieved eyes.

I am used to indecision.

Just as I am that question of                           home 

that leaves me awaiting a 

sense of residence somewhere…anywhere.


The following piece is an edited version of my contribution to a collaborative effort called Poets for Peace on the blog ForgottenMeadows. To learn more and to contribute to the fabulous initiative, visit

When blood
Is a river

Drowning itself
Rage a wave

Self-harming in
Violent crests

You & I forge
Solace in the

Dove’s Oak
Branch alto

The swaying dance of
Resurrected blossoms

Stone parishes chanting
Vespers & intonations.

Together we dwell in &
Out of time

A present exit, so to speak,
From reverberating blasts

On breaking news abroad &
Popping clips & sirens nearby

Our space is  collected
in ourselves

In the union of
Our souls

Where we hold close,
At least for now,

In growing pains of
Our times.


Paradigm of Rejection

You wore your identity as a

Coat one size too small–

Confining, irritating from the

Constricting fit of history.

Neither Africa nor Azania*

Could break your self-hate.

As if the ebony clay

You were molded in

Became a fruit too bitter

To be consumed.


*Azania = South Africa




To change the world enough

you must cease to be afraid

of the poor.

— Alice Walker, “To Change The World Enough.”

In the

midst of

a midday

cafe lunch,

He made

Himself known.

Staggering, drenched,

half-sidewalk, half-street,

countenance bulging

with booze,

awareness, mien,

washed-up, incoherent,

disheveled, rancid,

Complete perplexity.

He halts

before you

& stares.

Surprise? Recognition?

Hidden sanity?

He halts

& Stutteringly 

demands money.

You decline.

He swears.

A waiter

persuades Him

to leave.

He cusses,

winding down

the route

He came.

Swerving ’round

the corner

a midnight

military Humvee

pulls curbside

& spirits

Him away.

You watch

in silence,

with indifference,

sipping your

sweet sense

of privilege.

He is

an anathema

in this

hidebound enclave,

whose culture

erases all

traces of

urban existence.

Mid-season Crucible

Mid-season Crucible

Locked out in the Commons;

Squatted, shivering against

Ghostly patterings of seasonal flakes.

A maple tree leans over you,

Its ice-thin fingers fracturing the sky,

& chugs you across the Mason-Dixie Line.

To bony hands picking through

Sizzling seas of cotton stems.

A shadow descends upon these hands,

Animated by the Southern drawl

“Pick that cotton boy!”

& a crack like static discharge

That makes those hands contort & contract.

A searing sting chugs you back

To that same squat, shivering

Condition, that same place.

You wonder if there’s still family

In those post-Confederate states.

Stumbling up and forward

You pray you have enough to get

from Boyleston to South Station

& a Greyhound to Macon.