Monday, September 19, 2005

everything that goes can come

Ashes to sludge, dust to sewage? Neither Iraq nor John Roberts nor hollow presidential posturing can make me forget: faces face down and unfound floating in the mainstream. Shifting from margin to center only in death. Naked decomposition. Broadcast indifference. Starring the toxic soup bowl as cooling board, mechanized dewatering pumps as makeshift cremators.

Disasters such as these ignite mumbling ‘bout the last days but the text prophesied fire not water nor wind nor untrickled down wealth. This is not the end but maybe a profound shift of the world as we know it for this generation. We remember Rodney King but without having suffered the brunt of racism's bruising weight. Some of us can even name check James Byrd, Jr.,but the cacophony of 808’s and flurry of celluloid mean muggin' and booty poppin' drowned our senses before Katrina drowned our distant kin. Too numbingly oblivious to even drown in our own tears we revel in our mountains of things, seconds of pleasure, fantasies of fame.

Katrina triggered a temporary glitch in the matrix of domination swiftly troubleshooted by astonishingly unincarcerated Karl Rove-like spin doctors or our own dogged listlessness. Kanye West aka The Louis Vuitton Don-- hip hop, hood and black bourgeois--bravely called our sinister leadership out and inspired some indie rappers to record a rap track along the way. Hip hop thespian Mos Def expressed a community's frustrations on his own Katrina recording. My self righteous brown hands, prone to forward a petition or tote a sign for reproductive rights through the Mall on Washington are astonishingly unclean. Since graduating from Spelman I settled in Brooklyn. Shuttling back and forth between comfortable elevator building and school, or internships and assistantships, concerts, plays, even leisurely afternoons in Prospect Park and now begrudgingly to work. Confronted ill will at school in this overwhelmingly stimulating but heartless city and recoiled, relinquishing my responsibility as a human. A life in service abandoned for narcisstic malaise which isn't to diminish my own trials that have thus far gotten the best of me, a solitary soldier on my own frontline. It would help to have reinforcements. Someone to lend a hand. But how can I can expect or accept such offers while my gangly arms foolishly cling to my side.

Guiltiness is a privilege. It's patronizing. This musing is about stasis and movement, about who I am and who I need to be in the calm before the storm, in the whirlwind, in the wreckage and in good times that must soon come.

I couldn't have imagined this on the evening of August 30th pretending to write at a neighborhood Starbucks, Instant Messaging with a few characters one of whom frantically referenced a ravaged New Orleans to my confusion then sent me a link to news images of the flooded metropolis. In the days following cable news gawking replaced mainstream media aversion. My bugged eyes eventually were mesmerized by one constant loop: a young baby-dreaded black man clothed in a wife beater and beltless saggy jeans gripping some looted booty from a store in one hand and his falling denim with the other foolishly cheesing into the camera. News of the thugged out survivors shooting at rescue copters sent me reeling.

I e-mailed my mother disgusted. She gently checked me. I rethought my outrage and my shame but it wasn't until an emotional Celine Dion got on Larry King Live defending the looters and I watched video of Charmaine Neville's harrowing experience that I fully realized how smallminded I had been, how easily manipulated by 24 hours news services how shamefully I nursed a callous disdain for the poor. I own it. I don't want to hide it. I was outraged by the the black poor's abandonment on one hand and embarassed by their televised grammatical transgressions on the other. Petty, yes, but true. I may not be as bad Wolf Blitzer but that's not saying much. It feels wierd to make this confession. There is still and always was abiding love for the victims and survivors. I swallowed the wave of tears tales of rape and starvation elicited and couldn't eat for the bitterness in my belly but I must be honest about what bubbles underneath my mighty levee of compassion. Black poverty is the ultimate hell. Irrevocable invisibility and biting spite the lot of those afflicted. What's really frightening is just how easy it could be me. There but for the grace of God go I which is likely why I disdained. It created some artificial distance, an illusion of comparative status and power.


the raising of lazarus

the dead shall rise again
whoever say
dust must be dust
don't see the trees
smell rain
remember africa
everything that goes
can come
stand up
even the dead shall rise

~Lucille Clifton~


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