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Glasses Crow Puts on His White Voice to Say Some Professional Negro Shit


1. There is a boy who needs to speak, but his mouth is stuffed with a flag. I use both hands and help tug it out. It’s longer than you’d expect and real work; the boy is clearly in pain. When the flag is out, the boy smiles. His teeth, not teeth. His gums are stuffed with pills. He grinds them to dust—he is trying to tell me something     about being. 


Every time a white man dresses in blackface, a crow unzips itself and a Black baby falls out. Every day Mickey Mouse puts on his gloves a white man grows wings. A Virginia governor’s college yearbook went national with a photo of a man in a Klan robe and another in blackface. The governor swore it wasn’t his after claiming it was his. He swore it wasn’t because he remembered another time he wore blackface as Michael Jackson. Recap: a white man in power dressed as a Black man who looked like a white man and was later tried for molesting white boys. Blackface? Whiteface? When questioned about this, my mother says it doesn’t matter—it’s about what he does for Black people now, not what he did in college. I take a pill every time a Black mother cries on the news. I smoke a joint every time another anchor says the cop who killed me will walk away. Every Black baby on this boat is named Jim Crow. 


Scholar W. T. Lhamon says that Thomas Rice—the “first Jim Crow”—was really subversive. That because his retelling of Othello left Desdemona alive and with a negro offspring, Rice was saying to his white audience what Black folk wanted to but couldn’t. He disarmed audiences with his mask—how foolish the Negro Jim Crow looks! But at his heart, he’s not a crow or a nigger! This white man can speak AND he can jump (Jim Crow!).


Have I lost my words? I have. I am a Black man in an eggshell world. I am a Black man in a world made for pearls. And have I lost my nerve? I have. I am a Black man afraid to love ghosts, afraid of what they carry in their mouths, their jaws full of sharp, red grass. 


And if you look to your left, just near the trees you’ll see a Black woman leaping from a garret window. She does this every day. Forever. Each morning, the white man tells her she’s been sold, she and her children are going to Georgia, but she can’t say goodbye to her husband because, well, she’s a fucking slave and niggers don’t get the luxury of farewells. So each night she launches from the window. She cannot die. Spends days in the air, held in the arc of the sky, given nothing. Let’s write a version where she floats her Merry Poppins best down the street. In this version, you can sing your children back into your womb and she does; they crawl out into the sky and pack themselves back into her stomach. There’s space for them all here. Here all Black women’s singing can raise the dead.


2. There is a mosque in my throat. A skinhead appears and reads from his manifesto. It is long. As he reads, other white nationalists gather to hear. We are smashed into the boat-turned-praise cabin. White bodies pile in through the door, spill over, and consume the pews. White bodies spill in through the windows and come up through the floorboards like trolls. 


There is a mosque in my throat. There are red hats inside of every book in this praise cabin-turned-church. I know this. The skinhead reads from his manifesto: 


Long live the peach-faced god 

of disillusion—wash yourself 

in the river of dark and blood, 

exfoliate the chambers of your heart 

in the river of dark and blood, 

purify your race in the river 

of dark money and piss   press into 

him, become him


I listen to every word. When he’s done he opens my mouth and says, "there is a church in your throat." It's a praise cabin, turned. 


It doesn't matter. 

He climbs inside. 


My heart doesn't break. It bursts. It regenerates. Bursts again.


My heart is a forest. It is Black. And in that forest, the trees bear fruit that look like Aunt Jemima statues (1).


 

 

(1) Correction: the trees are Aunt Jemima statues. My Heart is Black. It is a forest. And in that forest the trees don’t grow.


 


DEXTER BOOTH is the author of Abracadabra, Sunshine (Red Hen Press, 2021), Scratching the Ghost (Graywolf Press, 2013), and the chapbook Rhapsody (Upper Rubber Boot Books, 2019). His poems have been included in numerous anthologies including The Burden of Light: Poems on Illness and Loss, The Golden Shovel Anthology honoring Gwendolyn Brooks, Furious Flower: Seeding the Future of African American Poetry, and The Future of Black: Afrofuturism, Black Comics, and Superhero Poetry






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