In her poem, “If 2017 was a poem title”, Browne reflects on the Black experience so that you feel stuck in a quagmire of mundane oppression. I am present in every one of the hundred scenes she creates. While she reflects on her hometown of Brooklyn, she weaves in events throughout America’s history that connects us with her experience.
When they turn bodegas into boutique grocery stores
When they bounce cops up the block
Like this hipster protection program won’t turn back
Lefrak into Harlem turn back Harlem into Chirac
turn back BedStuy into Brownsville turn Brownsville back
Into the Bronx back into Gaza back…
You will taste this strange and bitter American history
Where the Mom and Pop work more hours than the Governor
Where the pesticides overflow our sewer systems
Float our food deserts into neighborhoods
One way in
One way out
Tell me this gentrification be for my own good
Tell me this housing project keep us warfare ready
Tell me Biggie died for our sins
& I’ll show you a Brooklyn stoop with a babies’ name etched in chalk
A hashtag ghost gone already
A price tag on his sisters face
She’s been missing since Sunday
Where choppa lights paint concrete a trail of breadcrumbs
A haunting finding its way back to our homes
The Electoral College
is a lullaby designed to put us
back to sleep.
The ocean is weeping a righteous rage, she got questions for the living:
& what about the sweetheart who would grow to love Tamir Rice? Mike
Brown? Korryn Gaines? Akia Gurley? What about they mamas singing
their name before each breakfast?
Or the church praying for their redemption—bibles raised in the air?
What about their (almost) children? How about they Daddy’s smile?
What about they name make them so easy to turn to ash?
How we ghosting black boys for the toys we gift them?
On a Monday
A white body told my black body
It ain’t earned no apology for the bloodshed
For the nights when my skin grow so cold
I know I must be inches from death
For each death hand delivered to me,
this: silence this: certain dismissal this: post
racial reality show this: confederate hug
& don’t it bloom like a mushroom sky?
What about the blues? Why it cry like hail? Why it hell like America so
Whatchu know about noose ready
Whatchu know about chalk lines & double barrels
Whatchu know about a murder weapon
Or a loose cigarette
Or a baby sleeping on a couch
Whatchu you know about the flag
The truck that followed me down a lonely road in Georgia
The names that I rolled off my tongue in prayer?
Bring me home
Or leave me steady
Gun aimed and cocked ready
Con artists turned 45th resident of the White House
While the 44th President is lifted off the grounds
by his shadow & his Black wife
She truth slayer all day
She cheekbone slay
Still the media aim and shot at presidential legacy
Until weed smoke & a concert make us remember
BLK people ain’t never been human here
Ain’t we beautiful?
Those that survived the purging?
Those that spill, body splay beautiful from a hateful song?
This swing sweet sweet low spiritual ain’t neva been inclusive
Whatchu know about larynx & baton
How you sing him crow in the key of Emmett Till
What fever fuss you awake?
Who else got cop’d anxiety?
Call it what it is: post traumatic slave syndrome
Call it land tax until homeless
Call it abortion turned sterilization
Ain’t no lie like the one against our stillborn children
Ain’t no lie like the many that shaped our babies into mute cattle
Prison industrial complex reverberates in the tune of elementary
4th graders are the easiest targets
A Math Problem:
If 1 woman got 7 Mac 11’s
& 2 heaters for the beemer
How many Congress seats will NRA lose?
How many votes will it take for a sexual predator
to lift the White House off her feet?
I am practicing this aim
This tongue a shoestring strafe
Melt the wires of Guantanamo
Yasiin Bey coming home ain’t what we thought it would be
Ain’t no solace in Mecca
Even Spike Lee left Brooklyn
Here, a slumlord will leave my front steps
Full of rat piss & AirBnB my neighbors’ apartment
for half my take home pay
Unhinge the city of Rikers
Bring back the reapers
Give them the loot & the stoop
Yea, they good at killin’ but so was Jefferson.
I mean Washington. I mean CIA. I mean Cointelpro.
I mean they mimic your Grace. I mean it’s 2017, America.
A new new year & your face lift be botched.
Mahogany L. Browne is a writer, organizer, and educator. She is the executive director of Bowery Poetry Club & Artistic Director of Urban Word NYC, and the poetry coordinator at St. Francis College. Browne has received fellowships from Agnes Gund, Air Serenbe, Cave Canem, Poets House, Mellon Research, and Rauschenberg. She is the author of Woke: A Young Poets Call to Justice, Woke Baby & Black Girl Magic (Macmillan), Kissing Caskets (Yes Yes Books), and Dear Twitter (Penmanship Books). She is also the founder of the Woke Baby Book Fair (a nationwide diversity literature campaign) and as an Arts for Justice grantee, is completing her first book of essays on mass incarceration, investigating its impact on women and children. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.