THE DAY AMERICA DIED, AGAIN…
by Joel L. Daniels
Featured on Life As Activism
this is not an essay. no, this is not that. not a poem. not a bomb. not hydrogen. this is not blackface. not a pledge to a new allegiance. there will be no cotton picking. there are signs—a cross stump stuck in a lawn, a flag burning. there may be a march, some spring uprising to coincide with fall palettes and patterns, of bodies being flung to concretes, red pastels overshadowing the grainy elements of white hoods floating in the background.
today could be titled the day the niggas came, but that sounds too glorious, too tied up, too bound, too tight. we are revolution in a Canon, redemption in hurricane, martyrs in a durag. revolution has chapters, too.
the day America died again my daughter slept calm, a cough here and there but no riot in her, not like her father. he had a carousel of Watts tumbling in ribs. a parade at the burial grounds, what i imagined, feet swelling from the sweet shit circumventing the convos — “deport illegals you do not own your body more jails please”.
pieces be unto you, America. the day you died again it was breakfast — over easy eggs, watered down OJ. hah, i remember him in those Hertz commercials. hurts, don’t it? the hearse outside smelling like 3 strikes, feeling like the Central Park Five, like all colored boys look the same in a line-up.
some will take the anger and wear it around their neck, bandana waving, weave it into a basket or bash it down into bits for breaking atoms and spirits. yes wear us down, wear it now like those rosaries the mamì’s clutch when the diablo comes, grabbing pussy or whatever. we out here catching the debris of the lost ones peddling protest, pagans packing God in a suitcase and floating the pieces upstream.
i heard they want us to drown. there is a sound underneath the gurgling of spirit tongue tapping the world of the drum. the word could be machine gun or filibuster, climate change or NRA. words are weapons; wounds are the way we tally progress. how much it gonna cost to vacate your rights? your baby ain’t yours until we decide it is. sincerely yours, patriarchy.
there are several layers to death, lengthy, longing for a reprise. digging dirt for suitors. the soot and soil that tumbles over the weeds and cobblestone paved history of us, the way we lynch ourselves dry, until the bone peaks from under the skin, breaking down the roots, scaling the walls around Mexico, the waters of the transatlantic, the covert of the Bay of Pigs.
there is no armistice here, arms legs, gone in circles, we go in to surfaces, sucking on wind, demanding acres as reparations, broken records for rhetoric.
i have died three times already and come back a pilgrim, a Malcolm, a bishop. resurrected as rook, a King. i died and came back as nigger, catching holy wars and pitchforks for the oppressors. playing chess or die nigger die, the games we play when we run out of stories to climb.
my friend emailed me because she needed something to hold on to. i wanted to pass her a lifeline. an okay, a be alright, a God bless, an amen. there are holes in this faith, though. they run parallel to freedom, pathways to pistols in schools and confederate flags flung inside the windows of churches. murder, a religion.
the condos in hell are nicer than the ones my momma thought she wanted. she be playing the numbers but America is dead again, mama. you gotta read in between the lines of the amendments that men made to mend the ways we look at law, at loss, like the structure was stiff and the way the system setup whites had to build a house to put the slaves in. minute details, i suppose. the hours here don’t match anymore.
when the dead die i will tell them after life we are not in the business of busying ourselves by selling dreams, shelling out great America fables. kitchen table got Polaroids of Tookie, posters of Bunchy. they will assassinate your character, then you. rather yours than theirs. ashes, ashes. ashé. RIP.
Joel L. Daniels is a father, writer and story-teller, born and raised in the Bronx. He was the recipient of the Bronx Council of the Arts BRIO Award for poetry, and his work has been featured in the Columbia Journal, The Boston Globe, CNN Money, The Towner, Fatherly, Thought Catalog, Phila Print, The Smoking Section, Blavity, Huffington Post, BBC Radio, RCRD LBL, URB, BRM, AllHipHop, The Source, RESPECT, and HipHopDX. He’s spoken/performed at the Apollo Theater, Joe’s Pub, Rockwood Music Hall, Columbia University, Lehman College, City Tech, The National Black Theater, NYU, Webster Hall, Pianos, and Brooklyn Bowl.