& Bless: Poems

Prester John’s Book of Stars

i. Istrouma
And in savage [it is] called Istrouma, which means red stick
[bâton rouge], as at this place there is a post painted red that the savages
have sunk there to mark the land line between the two [battling] nations.
—André-Joseph Pénicaut, ca. 1723

                         according        to the expedition’s indentured
woodworker/ carpenter half-honest                       storyteller the red
stick band       resisted encroachment/ assimilation
            synchronicity/                        red-painted war clubs
                         or maybe they were

medicine wands        we’ll never know       for certain
            the genesis people killed/   or captured & sold
in Saint-Domingue               so

            there’ll be no more   stepping off that       ledge
every day       no more self-policed
            torments & tortures no more nineteenth-century Old
World                          empires bring on       the revolutions roll
on       new world order & the most recent toll this

            week by my count (but I’ve lost count count
count)                         stands at                     ten

            & after the shafts       hit their targets
a president pled unity: a bullet need happen
             only    once   but for peace to work we need to
be reminded . . . . . . .

                         again & again &
again  a death ray    not-quite-dartle too bright &
            the fire flash               & echo
of a new-from-the-get-go clean slate                     or is it?
            as the nation’s sly grunt       & beery

as military madness             hit-or-miss score-settling

            & retribution              our cumulative consciences
wept drained                          I’ve heard/ read white               on black
white on white & black on black     & no turning

            & Montrell in his blues tweets  please don’t
let please don’t
please              don’t

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