MICHAL

JONES

Michal ‘MJ’ Jones is a poet & parent in Oakland, CA. Their work is featured or forthcoming at Anomaly, Borderlands Texas Poetry Review  and TriQuarterly Review. They are an Assistant Poetry Editor at Foglifter Press, a journal highlighting the voices of queer & trans writers, and they have received fellowships from the Hurston/Wright Foundation, VONA/Voices, & Kearny Street Workshop. They are currently an MFA graduate fellow at Mills College.

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ON HUNGER

Riddle 1: What becomes a compassionate thief — 

busting only the smallest car window possible — 

for a taste of any scrap that may keep it alive?

 

Riddle 2: What is so convex and empty it wolfs

the seawater of drowned Africans & the guts

of whole continents just to fill it up?

 

_____

  1. No Angel

  2. A Trip to Burger King

WHEN FAM SAYS HE COULD NEVER BE TRAYVON CUZ HE KNOWS BETTER —

A silence                               then a tomb

grows across my mouth                deadens the roof

tastes of metal smoke                         hot blood chokes

 

              Speech knows no tongue

       He takes my silence

       as sign that he has won

       whatever argument he is trying

       to still convince his own damn self of —

       & Not of my purpled shame

       Not of a blood river behind dammed lips

 

Not of the catacomb

of row after row after row after row

after row after row after row after row

of dead Black children

piled between my larynx

 

and my staring infant son.

I HOPE IT DIDN'T HURT NONE.

—after Darius Simpson

You know – the whites always get to be tortured.

One thing whites are gonna do, it’s be tortured.

Jen & Sarah Hart get to be tortured.

We gotta sit here & speculate about their troubles.

We gotta question whether they were really monsters.

We gotta ignore the children’s ribs rising like welts.

We gotta commend them on “what they did” for them [kidnapped] kids.

We gotta make these bitches martyrs.

We gotta understand the pressure they were under.

We gotta make concessions.

We gotta ignore the body count & the body cam.

We gotta take our three-fifths humanity & try to see theirs.

We gotta dig up their bones before the children’s.

We gotta drown ourselves in their tears.

We gotta sea past six waterlogged bodies.

We gotta sit here & suspend our judgment.

We gotta swallow our rising seawater til we choke & sputter.

We gotta lay down our bricks & go hug the police.

We gotta turn our whipped skin into melee.

We gotta bleed out silent & neatly & hope it don’t stain. We gotta un-become quietly.

 

Them babies — all they gotta do is

 

              stay Black & die

              stay Black & die

              stay Black & die

              stay Black & die

              stay Black & die

              stay Black & die.

THIS DOGGONE FUNNY KID

(Jen Hart persona)

In one of his silly moods again,

Devonte is crawling around on all fours in his

underwear, barking and shaking his booty back and forth

until the other children and I bay in laughter.

Like standup, it’s so funny mostly because it’s a bit true —

Boundaries for the kids and dog aren’t so different:

 

Don’t go into the kitchen. Stay inside until I let you out.

Don’t look at my food while I’m eating. Don’t beg

me for food. Don’t sit at the table with Sarah and I.

You will eat what I give you when I give it to you.

These kids are loyal, loyal, loyal, just like Kylie,

who listens to her master.

WHAT DO YOU ENCOUNTER IN THE VOID?

—after Bhanu Kapil

I encounter breath leaned different laid sideways.

Feeble & vulnerable.

Attach lungs to houseplant tendrils, pray they propel respiration.

My chest pocked & pinned blood dots from her dart throws. Sideways-turned-skyward

I ignore footprints’ patter across a sterile ceiling.

I have known they watch me. Accept it like this trampled heart.

Just two fortnights ago:

some common animal in me crawled across this carpet moss,

ripped the grass as if it were rooted.

Wept itself into a puddle, humbled howl —

I have become no more than this.

Now, lain sofa-fetal,

       resigned tears roll more quiet. Become still enough to evaporate.