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.

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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 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.

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

NaPoWriMo 8/30 Ode

Insomnia you bitch always with Regret
and Remorse those hot slutty twins
on speed dial. O how, Insomnia, you make
a porno of when sleep and wake meet, make
the glistening joy of their kiss obscene and
cheap See Sleep and Awake Fucking your
$1.99 download one of millions of tit-
les brilliant in their starched efficiency.  

Insomnia, the canned moan of your too-
ready bliss when you press your want
against me roll me onto my belly
to wake and write this ode to you.

NaPoWriMo 7/30 Now obsess

(with thanks to Gerald Stern for the first two lines. And also the word “dam.” And the endless stream of song lyrics. And letting the sleeping dog lie. Hell – thanks to Gerald Stern for all it, and all of poetry)

Now obsess on the wet kiss,
now obsess on the red knife,
slicing the cucumber cool-cool-cumber

Now obsess on your sliced bliss
now obsess on your green life
and laugh ha-ha though the day be raw

Now obsess on ancient trysts
now obsess on supposed strife
cry me a river and I’ll dam it to hell

Now obsess on not obsessing
now obsess on letting sleeping dogs
lie and rise and fly to their home, faraway home

NaPoWriMo 6/30 Out of the cradle, endlessly rocking

Out of the cradle, endlessly rocking
comes the sea the sea
the mystery the deep the wild the universe’s
child O sea O source O return
the sea that has given and the sea that will take away
From waters above and waters below a split
a spit of earth then lungs then legs
Out of the sea, endlessly changing
all water, ever, just a rearranging of rain
and river and broad ocean wide
all water, ever, eternal bride with carbon
groom make single cell then ZOOM
giganotosaurus, virus then ZOOM great whales
Out of the atoms, endlessly combining
Out of the seeds, endlessly trying
to reach more sun than other seeds
make more food to store then die to
rise again, O insistent cycles in the face of which
there is no death no final just round again and round
energy to matter, matter to energy, grow and eat,
secrete and rot, out of rot another bloom
Out of the dying, always more dying
and always living in between O
insistent genes O eternal
crap shoot O malformalities that breed
evolutionary wonders O the trillions of billions
of heart beats heart beats heart beats that have beat
upon this spit of earth, in its skies and in its Mother
Sea O oceans O seas O birthing beds of all that is
O endlessly rock, O endlessly cradle the hearts
that beat the sap that rises the seeds that burst
the stone that stays the air that blows the water
that was our first cradle that is home to everything
that can ever be known

NaPoWriMo 5/30 Radical Cheers for Radical Consent

Cheering for Consent

from a great late night conversation with my coworker Grace Gordon, who is working on a presentation for a conference on Radical Consent. After that conversation, I dreamed of writing cheers for consent…

She didn’t say yes?
Then it’s rape!
Too afraid to say no?
Then it’s rape!
Too drunk to say yes?
Then it’s rape!
C-O-N-S-E-N-T
Consent!
Consent!
Consent!

Ask consent!
Get consent!
Check consent!
Fuck!

C-O-N-S-E-N-T
it’s the only true way to be SEXY!

At a party high and drunk
now she says Rape – who’d a thunk?
Well, you claim, she didn’t say no.
But if she couldn’t say yes off to jail you go!