For Ferguson, and the many cities just like it...
For Black and Brown bodies across this world
Copyright Pages Matam
questions for Nina Simone
upon hearing of the 1963 Birmingham Alabama
church bombing which took four innocent brown bodies,
you went to your garage to try and build a handmade gun.
When your husband found you
surrounded in a mess of tools he said:
Nina - you know nothing about killing, all you’ve got is music
You then wrote and composed “Mississippi Goddamn!” in the next hour
there are days I read your story
surrounded by so much pain like a mess of tools
how did you cockback the notes so music
could become such a weapon?
What rage moved your fingers into a cannon of sound
because I wonder sometimes...
What happens when a poem doesn’t save a life?
when I am tired of making burial grounds from my tongue
before my body becomes shrapnel for entertainment
retrigger myself every time my voice relives the
complex trauma of my own shotgun breath
Did the applause after Mississippi Goddamn
feel like the imminent ticks before the detonation Nina?
we still got many dying unjustly
Renisha, Rekia, Aiyanna, Alesia,
4 little girls different kind of explosions
black women bodies be like a church
snatch the holy out of them by men, courts, and policies who have none
what’s empathy to a war you’ve already been designated to lose
and the weight of blackness feels more like a white flag of surrender
Did you ever feel like a surrender, Nina?
As I do when many of my students have PTSD
trying to bridge Shakespeare and Tupac
doesn’t make them want to take a life any less or risk their own
just to prove that they are here, that they have a grand piano purpose
not afforded by a pen and microphone when you live
on this side of oppression, strung out from the high of poverty lines
Did your gun give you purpose, Nina?
was your spine made out of a harmonic barcode
did it play a beautiful song of justice for you to be able to stand tall
in the face of your inquisitors, of post racial society,
of how many ways can your body do that black magic
what happens when I run out of magic and I cannot pull through
because actions may speak louder than words,
but silence also speaks with so much volume.
Like the hush after the zimmerman trial
better known as just another thursday
in being Black in america - when I became so afraid
my sun will leave the house and never return home
because someone will not like the way his smile
makes heaven spill like a melody from his mouth
what happens when a poem doesn’t save a life?
when my mind became a playground,
and depression was a game I never learned to play very well
my own thoughts were a carousel of bullies
telling me Pages - you do not deserve to be here, you do not deserve to live
you should just kill yourself - before the world does
but I know nothing about killing,
all i’ve ever had was music - whether a pen, my breath, or a stage
you know, black bodies always been a musical
how the turn up becomes a turn of graves
we be a halted gospel at a stop and frisk
even with our hands up, don’t we still look like we’re praising?
we’ve seen how that purpose is drowned out in white noise
how loud I play my music can be reason to open fire
listen to a Florida gas station become a stadium of vibrations
listen to a Detroit porch become a symphony of innocent blood
listen to a subway train become a hum of a strange fruit vale station
listen to Ferguson become a riot of burning rage tear gas muting the moon
Our skin has always been such a concert
this is how I realize music, poetry, ART is a cause for a weapon
- not to kill, but to defend our ability to hope, fight, and strive
I wish to make a handmade gun of these words, to make my
voice // barrel,
lungs // chamber,
breath // bullet,
eyes // magazines,
reloading with a will to keep pushing
when I just don’t believe
when my faith is hanging by a thread
when I have run out of tears, anger, pain, and metaphors
this love is all I have left when my body can no longer fight
I hope it will be enough ammunition