[My father is]
Malcolm Little, Detroit Red
Brother X, and
El Hajj Malik el Shabazz.
Only he isn’t. He is Halvor James
Son of Hugh and Asta James.
He sings songs that Malcolm does not know
But would approve of.
I told my father I was going to marry Malcolm X and
He didn’t smile.
They killed him, remember,
Right in front of his pretty brown daughters.
This makes my father want to cry.
He shakes with anger, thinking of the bloody holes they blew into his fine
Before his most important people.
My Malcolm will die a violent death as well. And I
Will live my life in fear that today will be the day it all ends.
And he will not tell me otherwise.
He will not promise to live forever.
But he will hold onto me as if I can ground him to the earth
And hold him back from heaven
One more day.
My father will hate him. He has tried so hard not to be
So his daughters will not grow up to inject
And smoke themselves
To forget the memory of his death.
All this effort will be in vain.
I have inherited my father’s fire. This burning spirit that
Flies into fits of rage, setting even the air around us
Once, my father knocked a man out cold
Then shook him awake to hit him again.
We deserve to take out our anger, we deserve
To finish our fights on our terms.
I hated the world when I was 8.
It was my father’s birthday. We were on the highway to Arkansas
But this man cut us off on the highway. And when
My father honked the horn, he yelled a word that even
Set my eight year old blood
My father’s anger is quiet and transformative
It builds on top of slowly boiling blood
His eyes can’t unfocus. It silences everyone around,
Even us few in the van,
Still cubs, waiting for the all clear signal
This man who dared to hurt him on his birthday
Pulled off the highway, challenging.
Every one of us in that car wanted that man to die. But when
My father’s long legs stepped out of the car,
That undead man sped away.
But not before, he called my father
A “nigger” again.
[Let the Chickens come home]
I followed him at the party, trying to hold his rough hands.
I had all the words he didn’t. I looked up at him,
He scarcely looked back down at me. All the love I had
For him could not quiet his anger. It burned
Any of us, all of us,
Would have killed that man. I wanted to rewind time
Find lioness claws and jaws to rip
Apart this empty feeling he had infected us with so easily. We were
Not disciples of MLK. We were Huey’s cats, Selassie’s soldiers
I hated the whole world when I was 8. I still
Dream of Lioness paws with which I could rip off the heads of
Everyone who hurt our family
And wear their blood.
Perhaps they are right about us.
Maybe we are more animal than man.
My father speaks breath into ancestors,
Asta, who I knew only for so long,
His mother, and his very most favorite person
Whose eyes I inherited from him, from her, from blood.
Consuela, before her, whose hands I have, that he does not,
Who worked for her family, her descendants
If I needed, Consuela would rise out of the muddy ground
To save the great greats she never met
Asta who fought everyone who tried to stop her or slow her down,
My father uses her to explain what I can be,
That I can be Malcolm too,
The guardian of the children, protector ,
I am the descendant of Three Queens. We set
The sugar cane crops aflame.
I cry for the death of Nat Turner and am infuriated
At his portrayal as a heretic.
We are revolutionaries too.
Even as I seek a man who can command a room of strangers
As my partner, my father hates the idea.
He wants me to have MLK, Cornel West, John Hope Franklin
I love them, I tell him gently
But I am bound to Malcolm. I am
The claws and jaws that feed him,
I hold his fears for him.
I am carrying within me a fire that has been passed down
And never extinguished
A fire that leveled cane crops,
That burns away enemies,
That darkens flesh to brown
I am Malcolm
I am Halvor
I am Asta and Consuela
And I carry their fire in my eyes,