Fresh Limes

A blog in search of the beautiful

Violence and the Envy Black Masculinity

From Amadou Diallo to Michael Brown and all the black men before and between, evidence abounds of a systemic, patterned, and unjust assault on American black men.

As I peruse bits and pieces of the latest news (lord knows I can’t read it all  lest I lose my everloving mind), I have generated a theory about the prevalence of white police brutality against black men. Now, I’m sure I’m not the first or only person to set forth the theory below, but I think it is worth mentioning nonetheless (if for no other reason than to archive my own meaning-making in this dismal moments).

It is my conjecture that white men have a deep, historical, and pathological insecurity in the face of black masculinity. Black masculinity that is praised ad nauseam for its athletic prowess in professional sports. Black masculinity that  is quietly fetishized in the pornographic imaginations of many. Black masculinity that is resilient and enduring despite hundreds of years of subjugation and oppression. Black masculinity which defies and beats odds. Black masculinity which has been the creative force behind jazz and hip-hop, aesthetics so far-reaching and culture-changing. Black masculinity which has gifted us with some of the most iconic artists and entertainers in American culture. Black masculinity in the White House.

And when these white cops encounter this black masculinity, they are so ill-equipped to deal with the surge of insecurity, they do the only thing they know how to do to in order to feel powerful: they shoot. And they kill. I believe that they feel outdone by black men according to the many (definitely problematic) measures of masculinity, and as a result, they are driven to extreme, racialized aggression.  In this country, black men are STILL not seen as whole human beings. They are seen as brutes to be controlled and constant threats to be preemptively struck. And until white men—and especially white cops— work out the psychological dysfunction of their imagined deficit in the face of black masculinity, they will continue to enact psychological and physical violence against the very ones they envy most.

Remembering Why People Join the Military

I am proud to come from an Air Force family. My father served for 20 years, my grandfather served for 20 years, one of my uncles served for more than 20 years, and there are others in the family who have served or serve now in the armed forces. We have a strong legacy as a military family, and I am thankful for the opportunities the military offered to my family and me. I am also thankful that there are people willing to join the military, something I would be incredibly reluctant to do.

But there is trouble in the water.

Today, Memorial Day, as I navigated 3 different airports, I heard many people pay homage to deceased military service persons and express gratitude to those currently serving. Often, military personnel are praised for their “selflessness”, “sacrifices”, and “serving our country”. Of all the military people I know, none have ever declared any of those 3 things as the reason they joined the military. Rather they joined because they couldn’t afford college right away, they didn’t know what else to do, they wanted to get away from their hometown, they  needed medical benefits for themselves and/or their children, etc. Most have joined in hopes of gaining some economic leverage, and their decisions have been remarkably pragmatic.

It’s true: military life does require sacrifice and I am thankful for their service.But I would (sacrilegiously) implore you to consider the ways we romanticize the reasons people join the military and superimpose all kinds of honorable intentions that, if true at all, are tangential. 

Why??

Why not just paint your feet and walk around on your tip-toes?

Day 22: Poem-a-Day

Prompt: Write an optimistic/pessimistic poem

It does not get better
It gets different
It gets weird
It gets surprising
It gets surreal
It gets distant
It gets uncomfortable
It gets liberating
It gets really fuckin real
But it does not get better
You do not improve it
You endure it
You call it what it is

and you get it

Day 21: Poem-a-Day

Prompt: Write a “back to basics” poem

Put training wheels on your religion
Love
Compassion
Peace
Ride slowly
Keep your balance

Day 20: Poem-a-Day

Prompt: Write a family poem

The truth is a hot potato.
No one holds it too long.
Hot! Hot! Toss it!
Ours is a family of fear and fraud and silence and burns and hunger.

Day 19: Poem-a-Day

Prompt: Pick a color as the title of your poem, then write your poem

"Maroon"

Blood and earth
Stolen
They came  dark, bare, and brilliant
Toil and dirt
They harvested cotton, sugar, and pain
Black, our ancestors
Hanging from trees, buried in graves
in the very ground they worked
Maroon are our memories of
Blood and earth

Day 18: Poem-a-Day

Prompt: Write a weather poem

When it hails
understand
the gods find you bland.
They salt you to taste.

Day 17: Poem-a-Day

Prompt: Write a pop culture poem

In another life
I am Amy Winehouse’s guitar
I hold her genius in secret melodies
and contain her pain in 6 steel strings
Party life or quiet nights
Home alone, lines of coke, or bottles thrown
The fans will never know
The comp, the chord, the tune
I keep for her.

Gone too soon.

Day 16: Poem-a-Day

Prompt: Write an elegy

My grandfather is a star
with a mischievous grin that slides across his face
and Maybelline eyelashes that pretty his piercing gaze
and a slow, Southern swagger like Johnnie Walker’s Sunday drive from mouth to belly

My grandfather is a star
never in a hurry but always on time
misanthropically declining invitations to constellations
but always there for me, bright, on lonely nights
when I happen to search the sky

Day 15: Poem-a-Day

Prompt: Write a love poem

My heart is a red velvet cake
You cut a slice for yourself
to taste my love
Then, slice by slice, you ate the whole cake
"Please have all of me," I said
"What’s left?"
I offer you the plate.

Quit While You’re Behind

Well, it was bound to happen. I am now officially a few days behind on the April Poem-a-Day Challenge. Last year, I don’t think I made it past Day 12, so I have already “PR’d”.  That’s a win! Also, last year, I gave up because I got so behind that I was totally deflated. I truly quit while I was behind. This year, I intend to keep going! I’ll get ‘em all posted on here soon! I am traveling tomorrow, and airports are great places to write. So many stimuli that I can tune into for inspiration and tune out of for concentration. 

I deeply appreciate those of you who have taken a few minutes to read the poems I post. Not all of them are good, but they are all honest. They are all brave attempts to share my work. And they are all truly a thrilling discovery as I push myself into the discipline of writing something every day.

Much love to all the poets, far and wide, who are doing amazing things this month.