4 Poems by Taylor Steele

 

James Baldwin's Book

Dear Diary,
James Baldwin has this book. It’s about racism in the American legal system circa 1985. It’s
called “The Evidence of Things Not Seen,”It’s got me thinking, what of the evidence of seen things, the eyes that belonged to the body, thebody that belonged to its brown skin, how their witnessing is never a matter of truth, alwaysinstead spun into self-condemnation, a bathtub overflowing with tar, a hand holding a coffin’s
first sprinkle of dirt like a broken hymn.

Diary,
Michael Brown is still dead. My brother still isn’t.

Dear Diary,
Today, a White boy called me pretty. I’m not sure if it was a compliment,
Or a reaction to my being there, still existing, seemingly unafraid to leave my house
Despite all the guns with my name stuck between their teeth, on the roofs of their mouths.
So stuck in there I be, that these guns hired hands to loosen me from their barrels.
I’ve heard it’s as simple as stealing babies from the cradle, babies from the womb, babies from
the streets they were raised on. And everybody hears the babies screaming, crying; and 
everybody sees the babies bleeding in the back of SUV’s; and everybody is yelling, “They’re
taking our babies!” And just like that, the babies are still gone, still stolen. See, it’s so simple.

Diary,
Is anyone still listening to the poems about black boys, the dead black boys?
Is anyone still listening to the mothers of black boys, the dead black boys?
Is anyone else still waiting for the other shoe to drop,
For the Earth to start swallowing itself,
The Sun’s gold cascading into rivers, melting the walls of the sky
All that white and pink and blue and white just covered in burns, just covered in black
And scabbing like cast iron pans left on the stove just long enough
To make a crooked cop’s blood sizzle
And all the dead black boys back with lions for fingers
All the dead black boys back with BB guns for eyes
All the dead black boys back.
All the dead black boys back.

Diary,
Michael Brown is still dead. I don’t know where my brother is.

Dear Diary,
James Baldwin’s got this book, see. In it he writes, “A stranger to this planet might find the fact that there are any Black people at all still alive in America something to write home about.” Isn’t that scary, Diary? That word “still?” Like someone’s been counting? Like someone’s got a list of how many of us there are left to go? Like that list was passed down through generations, people always adding and subtracting us? Isn’t that even scarier, Diary? Somewhere, a congregation sits around a table, scratching off our names.

Yet how strange a thing, Diary. They’d never let it slip that they ever knew our names to begin
with.


How to Love Her In Spite of Herself

One: Remember how crisp the air
Feels on your tongue,
How lucky you are to feel
That.
Two: Know the salt of your words
Before you bury her in them.
Three: You are not dangerous
Because you smoke. You are dangerous
Because you have swallowed death
And liked it.
Four: Don’t look at her As if she is a map,
As if she is clip-winged and beautiful—
She has been told that for years
And is trying to forget
Those voices aren’t hers.
Five: You are not her savior.
You cannot be love
If you are shackles.
You are a history unfolding
Before her.
You are her history
Unfolding before her.


911 Call

She was all, but what is the problem though?
And I was all, I think he’s dying!
Was all, his eyes are so far rolled back,
The god in him might have pulled them down
From inside the hoof of his diaphragm.
And he was all…

Then she was like, but what’s the address?
And I be like, I done told you
That shit already!
And he be on the floor like…

She was all, is he breathing?
And I was all, why ain’t you hearin’ me?
All, I told you where he live,
Where he be in the bathroom all…

And I was all mouth and teeth and loose
Ends untying.
Ain’t never been ‘bout no
Watching people die and shit.
Ain’t ‘bout no 911
Can’t be down with the 411.
How you gonna explain to me
That West 43rd and 9th is redundant?
Be all, okay but what’s the building number?
When I been like, I done told you
That shit already!
And he’s on the couch all…

I be like, please don’t die cuz of this cunt,
This ticker tape, this sits safe behind her desk
Cuz she ain’t ‘bout no
Watching people die and shit.
Be all, emergency responders are on their way.
Be all, third coffee in 3 hours
Because death can be so tiring sometimes.
I be like, but what if they don’t get here in time?
And she be all, fourth coffee in 3 hours
Because death can be so tiring sometimes.
And he, he just be all…

 

Taylor Steele recently received her BA from The New School University, graduating with Departmental Honors in Cultural and Screen Studies. As spoken word poet and writer she has competed on both a national and local level, including the Collegiate Union Poetry Slam Invitational of 2010 and 2011, has been published on Thought Catalog, and has written and recorded with M-1 of Dead Prez. Through such malleability, she makes it her business to write about politics of the body, especially in regards to race, class, gender, and love and self-actualization. https://www.facebook.com/tsteele.nyc