There’s Something You Need to See

There’s Something You Need to See

This is a found poem.
I found this poem at the bottom
of the Tallahatchie River swollen,

its (eye) dislodged
From its socket,
Deep down

where it could not breathe,
L.T. still engraved on a Sterling silver ring
on it’s finger.

I found it
and rushed to show it to you
but you wouldn’t look, so I tricked you.

And, I’m sorry, that I’m not sorry
that I was vague,
that I played the pronoun game.

It was on purpose.
because sometimes English is not enough
to tell someone

that they’re about to watch a snuff film.
I was afraid you’d think I was joking,
That I was bluffing

or worse. I was afraid you’d get mad at me
that you’d shoot the Messenger
Why are you mad at Messenger?

Why are you making that face?
Like you’re afraid of a book,
like you’re outraged at words?

Why aren’t you angry
that all a girl has for “Show and Tell”
is F—— live video

of her father being murdered
when he didn’t have to be.
No. There’s Something You Need to See —

There’s something we all need to see.
No way I could just describe
what was on that screen.

No way.
I want the world to see.
I want tens of thousands of people lined in the street

I want farmers
to wipe faces with handkerchiefs
and grip bannisters.

I want the whole country
covered in tear gas canisters.
I want all the preppy, polished, people

who were just listening to “Panda”
to see Don Lemon crying on camera.
Enough with politicians pandering.

I want Black Death to move white people like it’s 1353
or 1955.
I want an open casket.

I want a bouquet of bills
in my representatives faces
I want unbiased juries

on all these cases.
I want all the racists
to look. I want the oppressed to look.

I want you to understand,
that Bryant got away with killing Emmett,
and confessed a year later in an interview with “Look” magazine.

I need you to get, that 50 years later
they’ll still unload an entire magazine
16 shots on a 16 year old.

So yeah, share the video.
Shit, I want captions in Mandarin,
Punjabi and Cyrillic.

I want open caskets,
for every Sandra, for every unspeakable
act. For ashes I want open urns,

and I don’t care if it burns.
Black lives matter more than white feelings
Black lives matter more than blue feelings

Black lives matter more than black feelings.
So yeah, there’s something you need to see.
You obviously didn’t notice it the first time.



Black in White Spaces pt. 1 (feat l’tesamuddin) or “the Other”

Upon visiting Dover l’tesamuddin is stuck in the port as a bit of cotton has been found on the ship and it is illegal to bring it into the country. As such, he takes to the streets to see England and the English, and he gives the reader the following description of his experience “The ladies were as lovely as houris; their beauty would have shamed even fairies…crowds accompanied me and people craned their heads out of windows and gazed at me in wonder…Many children and small boys took me as a black devil and kept away in fear” (53-53) So here we have a parallel to Lady Montagu’s dialogue in which they both compare the beauty of the female to an idealized version. Yet, with l’tesamuddin he does not compare them to his own people, but rather a being so alien, and magical that they defy description. It appears to me that l’tesamuddin perceives the Europeans to be in some instances sublime (in the Romantic sense). Thus, he is representing them here in positive stereotypes, while noting that they are perceiving him through negative “Oriental” stereotypes, their children even treating him like a ‘black’ devil.

Here we can very clearly see l’tesamuddin being represented as an “Oriental other”. In this reversed cross cultural exchange, some stereotypes are gained, and others are lost. Though he was initially perceived as a devil by some, he said that “in a few months the entire neighborhood became friendly” (pg 55) thus dispelling that representation among the locals. However, his staying true to his customs and his habits of belief, including dress causes the locals of Dover to perhaps create new stereotypes. While wearing his foreign dress he noted that, “many were pleased with my costume, but others thought it was effeminate” (54). Because he was the only Indian Munshi they were likely to ever see, this representation may have a large impact on their perception of Indian men as a whole. Though, the root of their thoughts toward masculinity are moot as this instance of feminization is comparable to the one experienced by Joseph Pitts.


“Final Resolution” or “Denoument”

Final Resolution 2013 was a special year;
Magnus defeated Jeff Hardy
in a Dixieland match, in the finals of the tournament.

That was also the match that Rockstar Spud
knocked Hardy off of the ladder,
which was what allowed Magnus to win.

A year later,
The Security Council would receive final resolution
for the Palestinian statehood bid.

Hamas grabbed a ladder, to peak over the wall
Sp(r)outing Qassam, strong arms, and syllogisms.
Meanwhile Mean Abbass chewed out John Kerry

Bouncing him off the ropes.
He couldn’t pin him though
And found himself getting elbowed

By Al-Zahar in a surprise twist
that would leave even M. Night Shyamalan guessing—
By this time I found myself losing interest,

Wondering what had happened to the sport in wrestling?
All this stuff nowadays is the same acrobatics and gimmicks
Scripts and flips.

Although, admittedly (Final) Resolution is a bit of a misnomer,
What in its eighth year, I’ll be darned if they didn’t have it right in 2008,
When Cage performed his signature Unprettier maneuver,

Only to have Angle to use the Angle Slam
to gain the victory.
Now that was poetry.

That was wrestling.
Now, I’ve got to watch Al-Zahar talk about compromise.
And, what’s his name—

Always folding arms.
Always the pyrrhic victory
Always the knockout punch.

That’s not entertainment.
I wouldn’t be surprised if TNA pulled the whole thing from pay-per view,
No one watched the last one anyway.



“Ode to the Blossom in March”or “A Symphony of Color”

Before the symphony there is cold silence. Then
warmth and color explode into the room.
Expanding, they grasp like the buttercup’s root,
& awe at pure romance sweeping black gloom


is felt by all. The red petals glow,
shining like brass with no rust to show.
Yet, their hues are composed to decompose,
pleading in vases like thorns on a rose.

An instrument trapped in its case cannot grow,
like pupils before the white and brush stroke
of lilies, their spectrum running deep,
into the yellows, purples & pinks. No,

only together are they an orchestra,
a sonata as timeless as the stars.
Fingerlike the fox glove knows this
& plucks on heartstrings like a guitar

or violin. As their gorgeous tints turn gray,
do not frown. in fact, if you think about it,

flowers have never really needed smiles either.
All they’ve ever wanted was light, a little water,
from sadness or joy, it doesn’t matter the cause,
all tears are applause,

before the great pause.


“The Ethics of Police Accountability and Racial Bias” or “The Long Road”


Until very recently, I could say with complete honesty that I had never been harassed by the police. Until very recently, I would tell you or anyone that all the officers that I had personally interacted with had been nothing but helpful. My uncle is a police officer and my cousin, and seeing them in their uniforms always gave me a sense of pride. For a long time, I was never afraid of police officers, but for whatever reason I was always afraid of guns. Perhaps it was because I live on the South Side of Chicago, an area that has recently gotten national media attention for its violence. Growing up in East Morgan Park shielded me from the worst, but as a child I wondered if I or someone I loved would be next. Although, as the years went by it seemed like I was one of the fortunate ones. My house was broken into once, but I do not share the experiences of my friends who were jumped, mugged, or threatened by gang members.

Recently after much reflection, there is only one encounter that I had that could possibly count as police harassment. Although, at the time my friend and I just shrugged it off as a strange coincidence. Once, when I was ten years old, my friend Tevin and I were playing in the front yard. A police cruiser pulled up to us, and an officer got out of the car. He asked if we had been jumping fences which we thought was a strange question because he hadn’t. We said no. He said that there had been boys that were wearing shirts like ours that had been jumping fences, and he had received a call about it. A nearby neighbor corroborated our story and the officer left. That’s it, I’ve never been stopped and frisked, asked if I was buying or selling drugs, pulled over, beaten, tasered, shot at, or remotely threatened by a police officer. Hooray for me.

However, fast forward through my life to the night of October 12th 2014 and everything changes. I had joined a coalition of students from Vanderbilt University (my school), Fisk University, and Tennessee State University to journey to St. Louis sponsored by the local NAACP’s gofundme and Ferguson Action. We were to join up with the national protest of the murder of Michael Brown the next day, but when we got to our hotel we heard of a protest happening that night of another young black man, Vonderritt Myers Jr., killed by a white officer in the Shaw neighborhood of St. Louis. As we rode there in the white vans that we had used for the trip, the police were out in notable force, even barricading some streets. We must have looked suspicious to them because after ten minutes of driving they forced us to stop. Then they shone lights in the car. What happened after that, I will never forget.

They told everyone in the car to put their hands up with the lights continuing to shine in our faces. The tension in the air was palpable. We could barely see outside van, but could tell that we were surrounded by an impressive amount of force. It was then while my hands were up that for the first time I was afraid. I wondered what would happen if someone next to me made a sudden move, a twitch, a sneeze; anything? What’s to stop them from forcing us all out of this van right now? Although, I was afraid, I remained calm. Several people in the van were videotaping the situation and the police with phones and miniature video recorders. They instructed the driver of the first van to get out and explain where we were going. She said that we were looking for the expressway. The officers then talked amongst themselves for a bit before deciding to give us an ‘escort’ to the expressway. The mood in the van was solemn as the lights dimmed; we were able to put our hands down and were led away from the protest.

The next day, I was filled with confusion and the dull sting of anger. One summer ago, when I had helped St. Sabina Catholic Church promote the 2013 Occupy the Streets Peach March on Chicago’s South Side during which we went through four gang territories protesting for peace on our streets, the police had been our escorts. Even during the national protest in downtown St. Louis it was the police who blocked off the streets for us, making sure that we could pass. I was met with a resonate cognitive dissonance. The police had not a day ago terrified me and my friends, but now they were here, intended to make me feel safe. The protests though overall exuberant, ultimately only added to this dissonance. There were people from all walks of life and all over the country. I even ran into Cary Shepherd, a friend from high school. There were people there for an end to police brutality, people there for justice for Michael Brown, people there relating Ferguson with Pakistan, people trying to raise the minimum wage. Communists passed out literature. A man walked around saying that we all had to take the violence to our oppressors. The crowd, me included, sang many chants that day, but the one that stuck out was ‘No Justice. No Peace’; even then I felt that it was foreboding in a way I couldn’t explain.

Ultimately, Officer Darren Wilson was not indicted by the grand jury in the killing of Michael Brown. Many people were upset. There were riots. On my timeline, multiple Facebook friends indicated that they had lost faith in the system. For better or worse, it seemed that our chant had come true. I was upset as well, but more so that there would be no trial, and that for me there would always be a shadow of doubt that injustice had occurred. In our Group-Me a semi-heated discussion broke out from a Fraternity brother who wondered why people were so adamant about Darren Wilson’s guilt given the reasonable ambiguity of what had transpired between him and Michael Brown. Who were we to judge the grand jury’s decision? The law had prevailed and we should just accept it as reality. At that moment, I discovered something both empowered and terrified me. I agreed with him. I agreed that this case in particular was ambiguous, and that it had been sensationalized by the media. I agreed with him that we did not know all of the facts and that there was a chance that the grand jury had indeed made the right decision. I shuddered at the ethical implications of both my feeling of empowerment and my feeling of terror. If nothing was to be upset about, I had been baited by my race and surrendered to the bias of my peers and sensationalist media. On the other hand, if the doubt that was plaguing me was correct then injustice had occurred, then a killer had potentially gone free, then an officer of the law would not be held accountable of their actions. It was then that I realized the problem, my brother and I, were looking at the situation from completely different contexts.

In my opinion context is critical for evaluating police accountability not only in Ferguson, but throughout the United States in terms of race, class, gender etc. A person that sees things in different context not only comes up with a different opinion on a case, but exists inside a different ethical reality. After the grand jury’s decision, I watched different news stories and read multiple articles online where people noted Michael Brown’s bullying behavior, his theft, and his status as a criminal who got what he was asking for. There were people who sided in solidarity with Officer Wilson, and while I personally could not do so, I understood why they could. I’ve known people like Michael Brown, people that beyond allegedly have stolen, have robbed and hurt others, and have been in gangs. Some of these people are members of my family, and therefore I know that if things had gone differently for me I might have turned out like them. If things had gone differently for me I might have done the things Michael Brown allegedly did. For people that side in solidarity with Officer Wilson it is the same thing.

Knowing this, the ethical questions presented by this case were almost overwhelming. The ethics of police accountability and the ethics of grand jury reform, did I really care about those things in the larger context of my country? What about the effects of media sensationalism on everyday people? I had to ask myself difficult questions. Had I been sensationalized into sadness and outrage over this case; sensationalized just my white counterpart with a differing opinion? Was I, as a black person in America, just as likely as a white people of trading my ethical considerations for a groupthink mentality? And If I was, so what? For black people, isn’t this mentality a defensive one that considers America’s racist past and racially biased present? Isn’t it one that ensures that we do not forget lest history repeats itself? Yet, it seemed that with Michael Brown’s death and lack of indictment and then with the Eric Garner’s death and lack of indictment that history would repeat despite our defensive mentality. In the book, “Race and Policing in America: Conflict and Reform” by Ronald Weitzer and Steve A. Tuch the authors argue that the, “coercive crime-control practices that take place in minority communities are often supported by whites because black and Hispanic citizens represent a criminal threat to the larger social order. However, black and Hispanic citizens object to these aggressive practices because they view them as racially biased and unwarranted.” (Warren 1142), thus, two options arise when speaking of police and grand jury reform. Somehow convince the white people that believe in this ‘criminal threat’ that these systems are both racist AND unethical, or convince these white people that these practices are merely unethical to all people.

According to these people, be they White, Black, Latino or Asian, the decision of the Grand Jury not to indict Officer Derrick Wilson is the law and not necessarily indicative of racism. It would be difficult then, for me to convince these people that the entire Grand Jury system is racist. However, it would be easier for me to give an ethical argument for reform. It would be easy for me to argue that, “‘The grand jury is the total captive of the prosecutor, who, if he is candid, will concede that he can indict anybody, at any time, for almost anything before any grand jury.’ 1 This allocation of power is completely at odds with the constitutional responsibilities” (Hall 334) According to Weitzer and Tuch blacks represent a criminal threat to the ‘larger social order.’ Isn’t the key to focus on the larger social order when discussing ethical considerations and policy changes? If white people who agree with the Grand Jury’s decision to not indict Officer Wilson know that, “The rules of evidence that govern trials do not apply to grand jury proceedings, opening the door to illegally seized evidence, coerced statements, and hearsay” (334) then the context becomes an ethical one. They can then see the potential travesty, not in an Officer Wilson being wrongfully pardoned, but through seized evidence and coerced statements, in an Officer Wilson being wrongfully indicted.

At this revelation, grand jury reform seemed easy, but what about the ethics of police accountability? From a racial and ethical standpoint many white people saw Officer Wilson as doing the right thing. From what was presented in the media including Officer Wilson’s testimony, it seemed clear to them that Michael Brown was large, intimidating, and a bully and that Officer Wilson acted in self-defense. These people seemed not to notice the fearful images of riot police accosting peaceful protestors, but instead the fearful images of the Ferguson riots. After I came back to Vanderbilt from a relaxing Thanksgiving Break this year, not two days passed before, on December 3rd, a student had published an opinion piece decrying our Dean for seemingly supporting on campus activities that supported justice for Michael Brown. In this letter to the Dean this student demanded an apology for unprofessional behavior, but also noted, “the “official” university position does not include any mention about the looting and riots occurring throughout Ferguson, which are of much more importance to the city’s well-being than the grand jury’s decision is.” (Ridley) When thinking about the current, greater social order, looters destroying businesses and property have greater impact than an officer being pardoned by a grand jury for self-defense. However, from an ethical perspective this is a failure of accountability on both the part of the jury and the part of the police.

It was the grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the choking death of Eric Gardner that solidified the importance of accountability for a lot more people that were dissuaded by the ambiguities of the Michael Brown case. Beyond the idea of race, there was footage of an officer performing an illegal chokehold on an unarmed man who later died because of said chokehold. President Obama had just proposed body cameras a few days earlier, yet in this case there was video proof and still no indictment. When I first hear the news, I was numb. I didn’t feel angry or sad. I felt nothing. It scared me, I wondered if I didn’t care anymore. I wondered if it was too tired to care. I remember a day later watching John Stewart’s poignant rant on the Daily Show, in which he/his personality expressed continuous disbelief that in the face of all this evidence there was no indictment. In the end, he didn’t know what to say. The Eric Gardner case definitely presents an ethical argument for grand jury reform and added police accountability, but I wonder how much it can really convince people about race. Once again it seemed that an ethical argument was still more compelling to a large part of the population.

I did some research, trying to find which institutions in today’s America could successfully hold the police accountable. Could it be reform to internal affairs? Could it be the imposition of a citizen’s review board? Little did I know that while I was searching, the answer was literally a click away. It turns out that, “the Media, in their daily scrutiny of public agencies, can be a powerful force for police accountability.” (McCoy and Skolnick 521). When I first came upon this theory I was conflicted. Wasn’t the sensationalism of the media something that engendered bias; something that could influence a rational viewer to make more out of a case then what actually appeared to be there? It may, but it is easier to understand how the media could be of service once one has learned more about the nature of policing as an institution in relation to the public. In 1972, a committee of the American Bar Association acknowledged that methods of review and control of the police were “inadequate”. It is said, that the committee cited “incomplete citizen understanding of the discretionary nature of most police work and of the amount of discretion exercised by police as a basic obstacle to developing effective review and control systems.” (525) Reading this I could not help but think of the fact that I had learned that the headlock used on Eric Garner was illegal from newscasts. However, Facebook posts and even YouTubers that I had subscribed to such as Philip Defranco had also raved about merits of body cameras on police as removing ambiguity in situations such as the ones involving Michael Brown and Eric Garner. It was then that I had an epiphany.

It is no longer just the reporters, newscasters, journalists, and editors that make up the Media. It is Facebook, Twitter, Group-Me, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr, Imgur, and Reddit. It is the fact that I learned about the national march in St. Louis from a Facebook Event I was invited to and that I heard about lack of indictment of the officer that killed Eric Garner from a Facebook post. Media in today’s day and age includes social media, the hub that connects people of all races, ages, and creeds and disseminates information at sometimes frightening speeds. Similar to its function as a catalyst during the Egyptian revolution in 2010, I witnessed through social media as marches were organized seemingly overnight. And, it was not long before I heard chants coming through my dorm window.

The sight was nothing less than incredible. And just as there were people of all colors and creeds in those marches, there were people of all colors and creeds posting the hashtag #blacklilvesmatter on my Facebook timeline. Someone had started the hashtag #crimingwhilewhite, where in theory white people would post stories about how they performed criminal or misdemeanors in front of police officers to little or no consequence in contrast to the harsh punishments received by black people who were only guilty of petty crimes. There were definitely people who held their previous reservations, but suddenly there was an outpouring of understanding not only of the ethical outrage at the police not being held accountable, but an outrage at the racial injustice of the Eric Gardner case. Traditional media and social media working together seemed to have somehow made it all happen. I was elated, but at the same time, I felt guilty.

Often during my internal debates, I felt that it was always easier to argue to white people who didn’t agree with the culpability of race by forgoing that element of the argument and focusing on purely logical and ethical reasons on why the Michael Brown case, Eric Garner, or even Trayvon Martin case was wrong. But, presented now with such a show of solidarity I wondered if I was wrong for choosing the easy way out, and not trying to explain why race was a factor even though it may have been difficult. Sure, if my previous method had worked, similar to the manner in which I mentioned that the grand jury was generally in need of reform, this may have convinced people who didn’t agree about race to agree to reform the grand jury for ethical reasons. However, even if there is grand jury reform this doesn’t remove the effect that racism has in American society, and it doesn’t change the fact that their denial helps it perpetuate it. I felt that I had been willing to take the easy way out, but since the alternative is and will be so difficult, I didn’t know what to do.  

I still don’t know what to do. How do I speak to someone about racism when they don’t see its effects like I do; when they occupy a completely different frame of reference? Regardless of the difficulty, I do know that it is a bridge that will have to be crossed. People have been thinking about this subject for some time, and some answers, some clues have surfaced. According  to Scheurich in his article, “Toward a White Discourse on White Racism” “Among Whites, the idea that each person is largely the source or origin of herself or himself, that is, individualism, is considered a natural facet of life. This belief, then, is deeply infused in White judgments about the way life works.” (Scheurich 6). If his research is true, which I believe it is, it offers an explanation to why whites may tend not to view race as a factor in certain situations. Especially in America, there is the idea that if you do well it is because of your own actions, and if you are not doing well it is your own fault. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still believe in the ‘American Dream’, but I recognize that it is an ideal, and for many people including myself at one time, it definitely was not a reality. On top of that, it has been found that even, “educated Whites see racism as an individual issue, not a racial group issue.” (6) This differs greatly from the Black perspective, (which I can attest to from my own observations). It is unfortunate that this barrier that exists, but I am given hope by the fact that we know where to begin. There is nothing inherently wrong with anyone having an individualistic perspective, but white people, black people and all people must be taught that, “The problem with individualism, though, is that it hides the inequities in our social structures, especially racial inequities.” (7). these social structures must be viewed with a different paradigm not just by white people, but especially by white people for reform to be viable in a racial context.

When I heard the news that the grand jury had chosen not to indict the officer in Eric Gardner’s death I was numb. For the first five minutes I could feel nothing on the subject but ambivalence, but I struggled to wonder why.  It was finals season and I was sick and stressed. That was when I realized that for the first moments in which I heard the news, it could not matter. I was in shock. I had to process it. President Obama had just been talking about body cameras, and that there already seemed like a way around such a preventative measure was almost too absurd to merit my attention. And yet, I watched as my social media networks burst open with a resurgence of videos of Eric Gardner being choked to death and clips of Jon Stewart’s serious response. Nate Marshall, a good friend of mine who allowed me to cite one of his Facebook posts said, “Hey Darnel remember the time cops stopped us walking from my house to my grandma’s house. It was around my birthday and they accused me of selling drugs because I had birthday money. They tackled me in the grass and I spilled my pop. They owe me a pop.” (Marshall) When my emotions finally registered, I didn’t feel angry or sad. I didn’t cry. I didn’t go out and join the marches, but I knew that I had to write this essay on this subject and this subject alone.

I am privileged, to an extent. I am a black, middle class, college educated, American cisgender, man. This is truth. However, this does not stop my friends back home, my family, or my little brother from meeting the same fate as Michael Brown or Eric Gardner. I have an ethical duty to my loved ones and to the members of my community to hold police and the law accountable not only for their ethical deviations but for their racial ones. As someone raised in a collectivist culture like many Americans, I see all of America as my community. And so, while to some, Ferguson, and Shaw and New York may seem like isolated incidents, more than historical context, it is a pure sociological context tells me that they are connected. In America, we are all connected, and despite privilege, I am happy to see more and more of my White friends, Asian friends, and Latino friends join me in solidarity. Promoting a new understanding of race in America will be difficult, more difficult than police or grand jury reform. But, it is essential to ensuring that these cases gradually become extinct. The next time I am on Facebook, I will share a link to Scheurich’s article with all my friends,  in my own way of holding the police accountable and bringing light to the reality of racial bias in this country. It is the least I can do.


Works Cited

Hall, John Wesley. “Grand Jury Reform.” Federal Sentencing Reporter 1 June 2008: 334-336. Electronic.

Marshall, Nate. “Hey Darnel remember the time cops stopped us walking from my house to my grandma’s house. It was around my birthday and they accused me of selling drugs because I had birthday money. They tackled me in the grass and I spilled my pop. They owe me a pop.        .” Facebook. Dec. 4th 2014. [Dec. 4th 2014.

Ridley, J. R. “LETTER: The Dean shouldn’t promote politically minded activities.” 3 December 2014. The Vanderbilt Hustler Website. 3 December 2014. <;.

Scheurich, James Joseph. “Toward a White Discourse on White Racism.” Educational Researcher 1 November 1993: 5-10. Electronic.

Skolnick, Jerome H and Candace McCoy. “Police Accountability and the Media.” American Bar Foundation Research Journal 21 June 1984: 521-557. Electronic.

Warren, Patricia Y. “Race and Policing in America: Conflilct and Reform by Ronald Weitzer; Steven A. Tuch Review by: Patrica Y. Warren.” Oxford University Press 1 December 2008: 1141-1143. Electronic.


“Two Dimensional Revolution” or “My feelings on Brexit”


Back in college, our English Professor had us “visualize” the revolution in three student-drawn pictures of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” (lines 13-30).  Before asking which drawing captures the spirit of “re-volution” or recycling of time, as explored in the writings of Richard Price, Edmund Burke, and Thomas Paine?

I chose this one. My arguments…

  1. Let one for a moment imagine the arcade version of the Super Mario video game. In this game the character of Mario has the ability to go off screen on the left and appear instantly on the right side of the screen. If a player had enough time they could run in a straight line for an endless cycle. Based on such a principle I think that best Drawing #1 best represents Romantic revolutionary apocalypse at work.
  2. For our purposes let’s say that the river in the drawing starts from the left and goes toward the right until the drawing ends. Toward the left end the river is just a haze of ideas, a stream of conscience thought and principles continuing traditionally as per usual. Yet, above and even beneath this river is the heralding of chaos to come. Underneath, there are the red blades of grass full of discontent and passionate fury representing the common man. Above there are the lofty intellectuals gathering like clouds or stars in the night sky waiting for events to align.
  3. This sentiment of being on the cusp of apocalypse/revolution permeated all of Europe. Even Richard Price in England said though, “We are at present, I hope, at a great distance from it. But it cannot be pretended that there are no advances toward it” (4). In the drawing, the river of tradition continues until it reaches the series of mountains. Each mountain represents a cataclysmic event of the revolutionary apocalypse like the storming of the Bastille or the beheading of King Louis XVI. From that point on not only is the course of the river of tradition changed but one can see a new stream flooding from the last mountain. This stream can be viewed as, “a diffusion of knowledge which has undermined superstition and error” (5). In spite of its new course and content the latest traditions and leaderships fall to the same build up of chaos which proceeded the revolution. Again we see in the drawing along the river the same anarchic red grass (perhaps wet with blood) and the lofty stars on high grabbing at power, this phase is representative of the Great Fear.
  4. At last the river goes off the left of the page where nothing can be seen. This denotes a return to, “All the pleasing illusions which made power gentle and obedience liberal” (Burke 13). As the new society, though perhaps equipped with more freedom, takes on new prejudices. Finally, the river reappears on the right hand side of the drawing. And I think that it carries the same water that disappeared from the left side. At this point the cycle of revolution/apocalypse starts all over.

“Saul on the Road to Damascus” or “Love is Love”

The relationship between religion and homosexuality has varied greatly in human history. I know I served organizations that seek to assist people living with HIV and AIDS, and that many straight people have the disease. However, it was not long ago, at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, when AIDS was seen as a “gay disease” and one that many felt was divine retribution for a gay lifestyle. And, even today HIV/AIDS is still an issue for the LGBT community.

I am a Christian and was raised in part as a Catholic. For most of my childhood and adolescent life I’ve been taught that being gay was sinful, and that homosexual acts were sinful. I was taught once in eighth grade, in my Catholic school, that people are born gay, “when a man with the spirit of a whore, lies with a woman.” Of course, even the Bible which I read seemed to corroborate this idea with verses like, “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.” (Romans 1 26-27) and so for a while I was tolerant, but felt or knew that being gay was wrong, that homosexual acts were unnatural. Later in high school I learned in AP Psychology that it was common in the animal Kingdom and that there were hormonal and biological reasons that gave people predilections toward a particular gender and/or sexuality.  This created a cognitive dissonance, and for a while I wasn’t sure how I felt.

Coming to college helped me establish more progressive views on the subject and I became more and more tolerant. However, for a long time, being gay or Homosexuality in general was never something that I felt I could be celebrated. That is to say that, I still thought it was bad. Even when I began to tolerate it as neutral, I never thought of it as good, as I perhaps thought of heterosexuality. And, so that created more dissonance, if I don’t think it’s good, does that mean I wish the queer people in my life harm? If there is a god, don’t they love all people equally?

Many of the “world religions” from Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and even some aspects of Hinduism have disparaging views on the subject. In terms of our class I was thinking about this in the context of the Euthyphro Dilemma, put in modern day terms, “Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God.” While, good is what we currently ascribe to this question, I think that perhaps in the context of Christianity, the idea of ‘pious’ is more applicable. Because, the New Testament “God” in the form of Jesus establishes such a new departure from the Old Testament “God”, which shows them as similar in the Greek pantheon as having different viewpoints.

Thus, in the context of my service, I saw it as at the same time an act of piety that was not for good, and an act of good that was not pious. I served my fellow human, and thus was pious according to Jesus, but my service was perhaps the first step in seeing the LGBTQIA community as not just tolerable, not just neutral; but good. So, then I also chose to serve Good, although it very well may not be Pious.


“Writing about What You (Don’t) Know” or “Portmanteau”

They say,

(vague disembodied heads) to be honest in one’s poems, which I always somehow construed as similar to “being Amish” in one’s poems. Hours at the churn, no electricity in your lines and the risk of not being able to metabolize alcohol going through the barn roof. Yet, perhaps that is not entirely true. Maybe there is something cyclical to be learned from the way they make those hay bales that can be seen from the highway. Speaking of which, I have never felt more American than when traveling on the road, either by Suburban, Megabus, or bipartisan Prius. Maybe it’s because the subtext of race is gone in these instances. No one is racing on the road, we are all rust, faded paint, the shining matte of mobiles trying to reach home or somewhere

I don’t know.

They being (The Guild) say to write about what one knows but, to me that doesn’t mean very much. I know where a kid got shot on Vincennes one time and how it feels when a boy won’t play with you because you’re “too dark”. I know what it’s like to sleep in a bed with two other souls and stare at the darkness and not want to play with it. How ramen courts bits of broccoli as you stir it clockwise in the pot your mother just used and you scowl, because if she wanted them to be nutritious she should have steamed them.


do you know when what you know is nutritious or simply just bad for you? When steam isn’t just smoke pretending, like when they burned down granddad’s garage. The flames were like the heat on my nape and neck when I saw they had robbed the house; my room covered with glass and Styrofoam petals. I have never felt Blacker then when the Ashland bus crossed 55th street. Ashburn might as well covered me in soot as the sun set in Auburn. They say Brainerd is the birthplace of Paul Bunyan. If it was he moved a long time ago. All I know are a bunch of John Henry’s who died going up against the machine. Legend has it you can still hear their voices by the train tracks.


is still blessed like Brooks said. Back of the Yards still bloody like Sandburg said. Said said, “Just as none of us is outside or beyond geography, none of us is completely free from the struggle over geography.” which I think makes a lot of sense considering. My step father wonders why all the stores are run by Arabs, scolds us for not locking both doors at night. I don’t know why death uses doors when it seems windows have worked pretty well. It is almost funny, writing about life and death in the same stanza and watching them argue. I want to ask (The Talking Heads) if I can write a poem about what it’s like to walk down my street, the street, any street without looking over my shoulder but

Know means Know.

“Chicago” by Carl Sandburg


“Relationship Status…Ask” or “Rites of Passage”

Are we texting, talking, dating? It’s complicated. There are a litany of labels used in 2015 to describe the various romantic encounters that couples experience. My ex-girlfriend and I had the pleasure of utilizing all of them, and I had the unique privilege of falling prey to the perhaps least ambiguous title of them all; In a Relationship.

To be honest, when we first met in a boutique on West End, she flew under my radar. She helped me find a gorgeous dark blue floral print Steven Alan shirt for a fashion show I helped manage. She was warm, vibrant, and beautiful, but it was my senior year of college, and I was focused on other “pursuits”.

I must have really liked that shirt, however, because I returned a month later to buy another one. This time, I registered a look in her eyes, as well as the inkling that it could mean something more. So, I did what most twenty-one year olds do when they’re crushing on someone, I friended her on Facebook. We talked some, but nothing materialized. I graduated a month later in May, returned home to Chicago, and begrudgingly moved back in with my parents.

During this time, while I was desperately applying to any job I could find, she confided over Facebook that she’d had a crush on me ever since we’d first met in the store. Flattered, I told her that I felt that we had chemistry and that if I came back to Nashville, I looked forward to meeting up with her. I just so happened to get a public relations gig a couple of weeks later, and before I knew it I was taking Megabus down from Chicago. Work didn’t start for a couple days and I was bored, so I sent her a text message.

Our first hangout was at a hookah bar; a nice spot in Hillsboro Village that she suggested. The evening was—average. We engaged in idle conversation and ran into some of her friends. There was an awkward exchange when it came up that I was twenty-one in contrast to her twenty-seven. But, it was a small speed bump. When we left, she drove me to my place and hugged me goodbye on the porch. I told her to text me when she got home. Cute.

We started hanging out more. She invited me to a 4th of July party thrown by some local actors and artists at Ryman lofts. We danced to Moon Taxi as fireworks burst over the Cumberland River and walked back to her car in the light drizzle. I began noticing that she smoked a lot, which didn’t bother me so much as make me concerned. But she was still so vibrant and warm, her eyes dark but voluminous as Cheekwood at night; intoxicating shadows of human landscape. The next weekend, when she dropped me off, she danced on the sidewalk after giving me a customary goodbye hug. I asked her why she was moving so much. She said it was because she was nervous– I told her not to be. I told her she should practice standing still. I kissed her. She beamed.

We began dating exclusively after that, and yet the constraints of the new title only led to more complications. Despite our attraction. Despite the fact that we had similar interests. Despite the fact that she read Walking Dead comics or that we could watch Arrow together with her roommate’s cat, I wasn’t sure if our relationship had any long-term value. I told my roommate I was considering going with her to Barnes and Nobles where I would tell her that we should just be friends. He said he wasn’t sure about Barnes and Nobles as an appropriate venue, but I wanted to be on neutral ground if it went badly. Besides, in a culture where text break-ups had become all too commonplace, I felt that I should at least have the decency to do it in person.

But, I didn’t break it off in Barnes and Nobles. Instead, we talked and decided to pursue a relationship. We made compromises. I had dinner with her parents and nephew. We saw “Dope” at the theater, went ballroom dancing, ate Indian Vegetarian Food, shopped at African Street Festivals, Whipped and Nae Naed at the Music City Center.

I loved her, but wasn’t in love with her. I knew this but still couldn’t deny the rich intimacy we shared and the love she showed me. When I was sick with the flu, she nursed me, bought tea, made dinner, and sometimes even drove me to work. Later when I was well, we put on marathons of Arrow episodes and cooked dinner together. She talked about going to London, and I, coming from a modest, Haitian household from Chicago, scolded about savings. She had gotten a fashion degree, and wanted to start her own business. One day she mentioned that her mother had asked if she was “taking care of me” when she found out my age. I laughed. “We’re taking care of each other,” I said.

When our one-month anniversary came up, I suggested that we go out to dinner. She loved the idea. The restaurant was gorgeous, candlelit, and sported a papier-mâché statue of Nashville’s founder. But, as the dinner went on, she became increasingly quiet. (Admittedly, I had been a bit stingy with my food, after she so graciously offered to split the dinner bill as a gift.) Okay—

The ride home was tense and taciturn to say the least. The next day, I didn’t see her. I missed her call while taking a nap, and called back. We said we’d reconnect tomorrow. The next day, we talked about what had happened. She said she felt like I could do more in the relationship. She felt like she was the one always paying for things. I admitted that I could do more, but that I honestly just didn’t really want to. I had an intern’s salary, was trying to save money, plus I had been sick for a month. I told her that I was doing all I could do at the moment. She apologized. I apologized. We hugged and to be honest, I really thought that was the end of it.

The next day she suggested that we go to Centennial Park after work. I thought it was a refreshing idea, and met up with her next to the Parthenon. We sat on the steps before walking to the new addition of the park. We basked in the warm glow of the fairy lights, lay in the cool of the grass, and looked at each other. I told her that we were in a Lifetime movie and hummed “Give A Little Bit” by Roger Hodgson. She giggled.

That night we made our relationship status official on Facebook. And then, 10 minutes later she told me that she had cheated on me. Le Silence De La Pensée…

I was calm. Perhaps the saddest thing was that I wasn’t surprised. I told her that I would think about it for three days and give her an answer on Sunday.

While I thought about what to do, my relationship status was getting more and more Likes on Facebook. And, quite the opposite of feeling the warmth of everyone’s acceptance, I was starting to get very upset. We had kept our relationship subtle. Close friends and roommates knew, but I hadn’t even told my parents yet. My mom texted me that night, hurt that everyone else had found out the same time she did. But, that was supposed to be the convenience of social media; the magic. I could share my happiness with everyone at once. But for me it had backfired. Now, all I could think of was the horror of explaining to the 106 people who had liked the status why I had to possibly take it down.

I asked my roommate for advice. I asked my mom for advice. I asked a friend from back home for advice. I even listened to a sermon online. The pastor was talking about people being assets versus liabilities, which I thought was an oddly cold message, but its simplicity spoke to me. That evening, I called her and told her I was ready to talk. When she came over, I told her that I loved her, but I thought it was better if we were just friends. She said she understood. She left.

I drank a shot of whiskey, and paced around the kitchen. I cried in a chair in front of the empty glass listening to Frank Ocean. I took that Monday off, but I did not change my relationship status on Facebook. I didn’t want to risk anyone asking questions, because to most it would look liked I had been in a relationship for only four days. I had been so quick to share my happiness on Facebook, but could not bear the thought of sharing my heartbreak.

I changed the relationship status, but allowed no one to see it. Ironically this only ended up prolonging my grief. I would run into friends who’d ask about my ‘girlfriend’. And then, I would have to awkwardly tell them that we had broken up. Some chuckled, while others gave blank stares. “Yeah,” I would say. “It’s complicated.”

“Give a Little Bit” by Roger Hodgson