back in the day, before the whole Obama-Nation up-by-yo'-bootstrap,
                                                                                                                                    post-racial tha'ng,
black folk's dreams was a rusty wrench fit a broke pipe; they had to force it
to fix it—                                                                        make a way
outta' no way.       tha'ngs ain't changed a whole helluva lot,
as history repeats by reinvention, still black folk
congregated into tight shoeboxes of quarantined want, anxious bleat
                                                                                 of need & a gnawing into the silence of desire,

like refugees of Babel into the biblical scattering:
blue-black to pecan tan fish into a poisoned sea & cannot recognize the water,         abiding
a less than of 99%,                                                                 an incensed but un-fighting mob.

we see them in crowds & in silent mirrors; they die quiet & sudden,                       strangled
at the roots by hours that retreat into subtraction & band aid frustration's bloodletting
from a pale palaver of lies—their wet dark of heaving breath
held hostage in jack-in-the-box, boneless bodies,                                            ghost grimace
in their laugh & calloused fingers                                                     massaging an accumulation
of too much come-sundown pain

. . . black folk couldn't vote, forced ta' tha' back of the bus, strange fruit hangin' from
ev'ry tree—too scair't to stand beggin' on they knees;

an invisible clench of sorrow that obliged the mind to remember to let go louder &
screeching, frictional lives, their feral cat moan polished                           & boxed up,
tucked away like a We Shall Overcome into the rewritten history of Amerikkka—
a devo-nigga-lution                                 that smells of broken clock & adrift-in-sunlight dust.

who we are is fence-straddlin' & a hesitant grasp of conviction on our part—
of who we are & where we come from.

frustration, denied the heat of the flame, becomes a walking shadow
                                                                                          camouflaged in collapse always imminent.
                                                                                                                      miles ahead & miles behind,
to go forward into something we know nothing about & so tired of running back & forth,
from fight to flee, from fear, to fear of—
waiting for the sun to rise,                                          on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line.

& on a clear day, we can usually see all the way to Watts, August 11, 1965.

About the Poet

henry 7. reneau, jr. writes words in fire to wake the world ablaze & illuminated by courage that empathizes with all the awful moments: a freight train bearing down with warning that blazes from the heart, like a chambered bullet exploding inadvertently.