It's as if you are given the sky to carry,
lift it on your shoulders and take it to lunch,
sit in McDonald's with it weighing you down,
this business of being black, of staying black
until the darkness of some eternity kisses you.
Birth gives you something other folk thank
God for not having, or else they pray for it,
to have its gift of a body inclined to touch,
inclined to sing. Yet they will not give back
to God the paleness of being able to touch
absolute power. They envy only for so long,
as being black is being bound to danger.
Among us there are masters like Monk,
who understood the left hand stride
on a brick. In his rapturous dance beside
the piano, he was connected to knowing
the scratch and slide of the shoes leaving
the ground, the shoes of the lynched men.
He carried this thing that we are,
as the mystic he was, revelling in its magic,
respectful of its anger, mute and unchanged
at the hate and envy surround us.
One day we learn there is not sky above
this trapped air around the earth.
The sky is but a puff of smoke from
this giant head smoking a Lucky Strike,
pretending not to know the truths.
We learn sometimes in this life,
sometimes in what comes after, where
there is really nothing but everything
we never knew. We learn in silence
the dance Monk knew. We find
secrets for pulling the million arrows
from our souls each time we move
to sleep, to forget that we are both
jewel and jetsam, wanted and unforgiven.