If 2017 Was A Poem by Mahogany L. Browne

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

so long


Yo: America

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?

Saint Sojourner

Saint Harriet

Saint Rekia

Saint Sandra

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 JusticeWoke 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.

Share with a friend