NaPoWriMo 14/30 Henrietta Lacks grew in a culture

Henrietta Lacks grew in a culture
Tuskegee Tuskegee the Negro Insane
Henrietta Lacks grew in a culture
Tuskegee Tuskegee the Negro Insane

They momma’s cells by the billions and millions
grew the cure for 47 diseases and
counting the billions and millions of
patents and trademarks and Endowed Chairs
They momma’s cells’ offspring grew flew all round the
world they momma’s children grew locked
in closets and basements and battered and thin in a part of
East Baltimore too Black to be on the map

Poke a little prick a little steal a little
Oh! Poke a little prick a little steal and
sell a little, it ain’t profit its
scientific progress it ain’t profit
least not for you

Grow out of control, them Negro
woman’s cells, out of control contaminating
them Negro woman’s cells
anything they come near
cost us millions of dollars millions lost
cost us millions of dollars those
contaminating cells cost us
but then they made us
billions more

Henrietta Lacks grew in a culture
Tuskegee Tuskegee the Negro Insane
Henrietta Lacks grew in a culture
Tuskegee Tuskegee the Negro Insane

Science might need consent to sell a part of a person
but them Negro woman’s cells ain’t human at all
though after the war she became more than 3/5
of a human no Negro was person enough to be more
than research without messy morals

Henrietta Lacks grew in a culture
Tuskegee Tuskegee the Negro Insane
Henrietta Lacks grew in a culture
Tuskegee Tuskegee, the Hospital for
the Negro Insane where they drained Elsie’s
brain to get their picture crisp
and clear.

From here, Henrietta, from here
no picture is clear not the one with your hand
on your hip, not the notes on your death determined by what
the white drs wanted to see, nothing is clear from here
Henrietta

Poke a little prick a little steal a little
Oh! Poke a little prick a little steal and
sell a little, it ain’t profit its
scientific progress it ain’t profit
least not for you

Henrietta Lacks grew in a culture
Henrietta Lacks goes on growing
in a culture and it’s thick and it’s fetid
and tastes goddam awful and all
of us swallow it, swallow it whole.

NaPoWriMo 13/30 cloud and rain and flow and salt and wave and cloud and rain

O! Mother Water O! salty womb of sea O! pure daughter
rivers spawning billions of grandchildren with every
bend and flex. O! rivers how you belong
to yourselves how your waters belong
in your ever-reshaping bodies how you are a container
of water in the same way a human body
is container of blood how blood and water
can both be drained and how
these are acts
of murder.

Little fishies little fishies feed on
even littler fishies and then are feed
for bigger fishies a story that goes on forever
no matter where you open its book O! the cloud
and rain and flow and salt and wave and cloud
and rain of the neverending story

With its chapters ripped out and hidden where children
won’t see O! the horrible consonance of dam
and drain O! the body, caged, O! its water sucked
vampirically as salve for hungers huge as
galaxies.

O! Mother Water, O! salty womb of sea, O! grieve
grieve
grieve for the bodies of your daughters
drained and left to desiccate for their trillion generations
never to be born.

NaPoWriMo Guest Dane Kuttler 14/30 Passover, Night 1: and with not those who show up, then with whom?

Passover, Night 1: and with not those who show up, then with whom?

oh and what i didn’t tell you about tonight’s improvised seder,
how i pulled together the ritual foods from the cupboards:

habanero hot sauce
some limp-nearly-dead kale from the bottom of the veggie drawer, revived with salt water
a hardboiled egg with a monster face drawn on it in sharpie
molasses (which looks EXACTLY like date syrup, how have i not seen that before)
half a lemon (we had no oranges)
a half-jar full of the crappy olives she thinks makes martinis taste bad and have been living in the back of the fridge

my box of matzah

how we sat around the table
and I was the only one who knew the words,
but they gamely beat each other with the leftover kale
while I sang Dayenu

and how they asked questions,
questions like a seder was built to answer,
and how we used four different Haggadot,
but somehow stayed on the same page

NaPoWriMo 11/30 Endlings

Endlings

Endling, Ender, Terminarch, Relict,
Martha, Benjamin, Incas, Celia,
and George oh George oh Lonesome George.
I saw George before he died not because I was
endling gawking but only because
I was there. Gawking.

Galapagos tortoise young
don’t know how to fuck so those
who grow up in cages without elders
without watching adults get it on
will never do it. We have yet to learn,
the naturalist said, how to teach them to want
to breed
.

Endling, Ender, Terminarch, Relict!
Get your endlings here, see ‘em quick afore
they be gone! The last of her species the last
of his kind! Last Passenger Pigeon! Last Tasmanian
tiger! Last Carolina Parakeet! Last Pyrenean ibex!
The last won’t last so get in quick!

Minor footnotes, one and all, before a storm of
endlings blows us clean
away. Last large land mammal, last large ocean
one, too. Last smaller-than-a-thumb Pine Barrens
frog. Last North American river without
fracking fluid, last 17 year cicada, others all
paved permanently under, last fluttering
heartbeat of a black-footed ferret.

But look, the sky shadowing, flocks
for miles coming in to feast, millions
of vultures and buzzards and bald-headed
consumers of carrion, population exploding until
they’ve ripped apart every ripened rotted
carcass until they too are fine feathered final
numbers before zero         familiar story but
with no humans left to give the endling turkey vulture
a sweetly sympathetic name. So you

can nominate your favorite name now!
Harold, I suppose, or Maude, or with that bright red head
how about Valentine? Valentine, the Very
Last Vulture
. The end of endlings
out with a bang.

NaPoWriMo 10/30 Martha

10/30

Martha

From 5 billion down to only you
Martha, passenger
from wild to white.

My grandfather said your flocks
took days to fly over dark
the sky with the thick of you
murdered by tall poles thrust into
flight path, momentum of your mass
sliding death by the thousands
down to the waiting
white men. How fun
to count to compete to complete
destruction and head home
for supper.

Of all the animals I
will never know you
Martha
stick in my gut, you
and the crows I did
not grow up with, extinct
from my thousand acres
youth, murdered by another white
male trick. When I was a child, my father said,
they had me climb a tree and steal a baby crow
put it in a cage and make it scream and when
the adult crows flocked in hundreds
to help a dozen men or maybe more
would blast into the black of them
the burn and pop of shotgun shells
rattling.

To every crow I see I call
Cousin, cousin, greetings to you.
Are you cawing murder still? Have you yet
found descendants of survivors
of the Morgan County Massacre?
Reparations, Cousins, take my corn,
my silver, the shiny bright blue
of my father’s young wide eyes.


Martha was the last known Passenger Pigeon. She died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914. At her death she was frozen in ice, shipped by train to the Smithsonian, skinned, dissected, and her skin stretched over a mold and mounted for display. Estimates place the Passenger Pigeon population at 3-5 billion before Whites arrived in North America, and the pigeons were slaughtered, in part, as cheap food for people held in slavery.

Interview at Green Line Cafe Poetry Series March 18 2014

Thanks to Shevaun Brannigan for catching the first 10 minutes of this on video!

(hey, watching this, I actually sound rather smart and together. Didn’t feel smart while I was talking, and don’t feel together in any way, so that’s a day brightener)

Poems Include:
How Poems Come
Crossing

NaPoWriMo 9/30 Windfall

Windfall

Found $5
splurged on a latte
thus is the state of my
IRA

Got $600,
just barely had to work,
spent it on flowers put the vet bill
on the card

Granted fifteen thousand bucks
bought myself some time to write
spent it on taking care
of anything else

Begged a billion dollars
to make a new pain drug
now my baby girl is in
a new kind of pain

Won a trillion dollars
spent it on world peace
won’t keep me from dying
poor and alone