Everyone is hungry for something but there ain’t enough to go around.
We learn young to take what we want. First come, first serve.
& as they say/: If you do bad,
you’ve got it coming. & if you do good, you’ve still got it coming.
The Mack God is in the streets, in the way the dice falls.
& if you’re just living, the Law Dog still knows your number
& is coming to get you.
& if someone gets hurt in the process, too bad for them,
because, like the truth,
someone is always gonna’ get hurt, so you look out for your own.
Observation/: It is safer to be deployed to a large & well-protected
American military base in Afghanistan or Iraq,
than to survive, unprotected, in a war-zone neighborhood,
in East Oakland streets.
The braided row of hungry mouths, moving towards a dream,
remake themselves in their own image
against the world around them. The Mack God
draws back a huge hand ponderous as planets, his hooded eyes,
the gangsta' fuh life glare of thug life, as He rolls the numerology
of violence. The headlines detail the screams of children
fetus-posed in ghetto bathtubs, only dreaming escape &
Jordan Nikes. The anxious silence, in fear of, the capricious assault
of semi-auto pistols, the echoed expletives, & ricochet metallic
of bullets riddling glass. The seductive euphoric
fist-tight-ful of glass pipe &
Made in Taiwan disposable lighter. The car-jacks & drive-bys,
brilliant with bedlam. The Mack God plays for keeps
& the people, like snake eyes in hindsight, resigned
they’ll never win, because of whom
they are made to believe themselves to be.
Note: In 2010, Oakland had more than 500 separate shootings—more than one per day, every day. The perpetrators, sometimes no older than thirteen, are involved so deeply in street life that experts say they have slipped into a kind of alternate reality, in which the laws of regular society do not apply. For many of these kids, the amorphous set of street rules governing their behavior has a name/: the Mack God.
As of 10/21/2010, more than 1,000 people have been killed in Oakland in the past nine years. That bleak statistic is important because it closely parallels the toll of American dead from hostile encounters—996—during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, which began nine years ago this month, costing American taxpayers, by some estimates, roughly $1 billion per month.
It Can Happen Now . . . TO YOU
after the mural by Bill Maul & the poetry of Patricia Lockwood
After the atomic bomb.
After the sulfurous seep of toxins into the swamp. After
wild-eyed, mad scientists in lab coats, tweaking the beast
to create an Other, an Optional Eve/: blown-back hairdo in black
& white—circa Elsa Lanchester.
This one begins with the gorilla-suit actor
& its long great line of inhabitants,
unconscious starlets in their arms or slung
over primordial shoulders. A primal yearning for the moon
luminescent through the scaffolding at Ground Zero.
The sea monster’s mutated gills, wheezing like a gun-
shot lung, its ancient hunger, a pornography of
captive women in refrigerators. The Creature
from the Black Lagoon
comes lumbering up through the waves,
P-Funk Aqua-Boogie, lurching
towards the balloon-breasted blond,
hungering for blood,
a virgin mate,
a surrogate womb;
its over-sized claws opening & closing,
as the woman cries wolf, fights back,
her screams the blue erotica of Little Red Riding Hood.
Will Robinson was the lucky one, unlike the teen-aged girl
in high heel shoes,
running through a graveyard to escape the living dead. His robot
had an early warning system/: flashing lights, whirling antennas &
lightning bolts from caterwauling
his automaton voice of red alert
the digital fight or flight of Step ‘N Fetchit/:
Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!!!
The Anthropocene Blues/:
Somebody Tell That Nigga To Get Out The Street!!
as a species we are both far too powerful & not nearly
powerful enough a paradox
that came into shrill focus as we faced a global pandemic
that both separated us &
bound us together to feel quarantined
but still a survival of the fittest
that manifested the inevitability of our wanting the nine-
tenths possession multiplied by the creation of waste the same
magic trick muscle memory of acquisition
is a side effect of hype
echoing the first trademark symbol for plastic/: an infinity
of more that is less but much more expensive
contaminating our fading bluest ball of sustainability
phor plastic packaging the evidence of our lust
for something else the coveted thing that lodges in the mind
like a one-hit wonder pop song (My My My Sharona . . .)
& the foreverness of a fashionable shamelessness
whether we want it or not is a meta-
phor useless shards of hope
in a state of des(re)pair our crawling forward blindly to nowhere
at a tipping point too often chalk outlined Vitruvian-
mortem on an urban city street made to feel the press of hot asphalt
into our chest & cheek (the post-
racial virus moving amongst us
like a quarantined inhale/: I can’t breathe!)
a supplicant lament in hindsight
like the exponential young & old who now die of cancer
under the fossil fuel irradiation of a setting Anthropocene sun
& every day the nuclear bomb-proof plastic packaging
obscured by the latest gadget that arrives at the front door
or the gluttonous variety of techno-shiny
on Big-box store shelves the mundane & relentless molecular rain
of plastic microparticles that we regularly eat & breathe
plastic poisoned fish & drought-combustible grass the traffic noise
that cockblocks crickets & wild flowers sprouting fragrance-less
like Black folk everywhere
but invisible as cigarette butts bottle caps
the discarded boot-
heeled bodies of toxic water bottles (the petro-liters of plastic
twisted into kilo-tons of strangle)
like the most dangerous word in the English language
is bad nigger (the genetic generational rage the reiteration
of chronic dissent) is a knee on our necks for four hundred +years
like the plague of Christianity (the oppressed who blindly cleave to
the worship of an alien holiness an unproven Trinity of hope in absentia)
like the white noise emergency scissors of sirens
suffused the pandemic death toll is the suicidal scarecrow
on a Roman wooden cross the myth of miracles
pulsing under his crucified skin
like all the plastic debris
that litters the gravel shoulders of highways the plasticized-
nylon work boot shoelaces
that won’t stay tied the export car parts food wrappers &
broken zip-ties the flimsy wisps of plastic bags
like a ghostly haunting of obsolescence the shushed attitudes
of consumer hands folded indifferent but post-
pandemic the people once again
creatures of habit/: the return of congested traffic Big-
box checkout lines of stupefied shoppers round the block multiplied
exponentially to active oblivion rudely yap-yap-yapping into
cellphones into an environmental collapse & it seems
we have lost count of the names of Black people
who ran afoul of the police the media cash-
register tally of the murdered memorialized on T-shirts
the hashtags become all too fashionable what when left of us
would soon be cockroaches Dick Cheney &
henry 7. reneau, jr. does not Twitter, Tik Tok, Facebook, Snapchat, or Instagram. It is not that he is scared of change, or stuck fast in the past; instead, he has learned from experience that the crack pipe kills. His work is published in Superstition Review, TriQuarterly, Poets Reading the News, Prairie Schooner, Zone 3 and Rigorous. His work has also been nominated multiple times for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.