"Because There's No Better Teacher Than Our Enemies.," "If You Scared, Go To Church!!," and "The Horror Found In Every Inexpressive System / Something Vile And Dangerous Writhing In The Dirt"

Because there’s no better teachers than our Enemies. 
Black poet. Sees and connects the dots in ways most are unaware
exist, writes about what has happened in the past, that is still
happening now. The ominous vibrations under the tongues
                                                                         of Black folk
like death letters from the risen revolutionary.
The Black civilian, who can slip between house-
and nigger,
between radical militant Black Identity Extremist
and Lawd Jesus, no!!      non-violent—
targeted for what we are,
mistaken for what we’re not,
and the way things are shaping up—the cause and effect
gnaw on a bone long enough—
we will always be less than;
we can foresee the same things happening in the future. The
separate but inherently unequal. 
Because Amerikkka creates the monsters that stalk them. 
The same sun
that darkens our melanin-ed skin
bleaches the racist rhetoric
you stand upon. 
The raised fists of righteous rage bloomed behind our eyes.
Like what’s the point—the hope and optimism and blind faith?
Black poet. Writes words of conflagration
to awaken the world ablaze, an inferno of free verse
illuminated by his affinity for disobedience—is a spontaneous combustion
that blazes from his heart,
phoenix-fluxed red & gold, like a discharged bullet
that commits a felony every day,
exploding through change is gonna come to implement the fire next time.
Because Amerikkka creates the monsters that stalk them. 
Beyond the heirs of rape, murder, plunder & enslavement, beyond the sons &
daughters of greed & devil-hate, the scorched & blasphemed earth, beyond
the critical race theory, and revisionist book bans
wondering what rabbit to pull out of what hat. The J. Edgar low men
in high places. They move in packs & cast long shadows, create
convenient terrorists, criminals, enemies, domestically and abroad.
Beyond corruption; beyond the same repetition, with the same
de-nigger-ating results.
Beyond the traditional weapons of choice—the home mortgages,
prescription drug cost,
student loans, &
medical bills.
Beyond the right-wing journalist
who heaves official speak devoid of due diligence.
Beyond the something new that everybody says we need; 
because there’s literally no place in Amerikkkan history
that Black folk can go
which would be safe while Black.
Like who?
put the bullet in the gun, that killed the Black Messiah?
Again and again, we have surpassed, succeeded,
surprised the racist assumptions, characterizations and
because we endeavor to persevere. 
Because we are as many as They can count,
plus one more. Because one monkey won’t stop no show
and one voice, a scripture of sass, can lead a choir.
Because there’s no better teacher than our enemies.



If You Scared, Go To Church!!

We are the Borg. We will add your biological and
technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture
will adapt to service us.
                                       —The Borg (Star Trek: First Contact)

Because we were warned of death
at an early age
we knelt in prayer/ : If I should die
                                 before I wake . . .

before the shapeless absence of God                                  
                                                     Because some things
                                                     when they're gone 
                                                     are gone forever  
                                                     We knelt in the churchouse &
prayed   as our fathers   brothers
mothers   sisters   husbands &
wives   were detained   beaten   illegally
framed in stereo-
typical criminality   & murdered
                                                     For centuries
                                                     we've been taught 
                                                     to conjugate prey to prayer   
to turn the other cheek   that hope-
fully   our racist oppressors would be
moved by guilt   or sympathy
to make amends    
                                                     We prayed
                                                     as four Black girls
                                                     were Raptured to smithereens 
                                                     because we believed
we must have faith   despite no dead Black anybody
has ever come back   
to tell us our faith would ever be rewarded
in the here   & now
or over yonder
                                                     We prayed & we
                                                     prayed   & we prayed   
because we blindly believed   They   
had a conscience
                                                     We knelt
                                                     in a Baptist prayer circle &
                                                     made ourselves easy targets
                                                     for white supremacist bullets   
We prayed   
as #wetoo were lynched   castrated
& burned in Jim Crow effigy
We prayed as we were told/ : You cain't live here   
                                                You cain't enter that door     
                                                You cain't sit
                                                here     You cain't go to school   
You cain't/
You cain't/
You cain't/    You cain't . . .   
We prayed   during moments of silence  
after each & every latest racist po-lice shooting statistic  
We prayed as we marched   were teargassed
rubber-bullet-ed   pepper-
sprayed   beaten & cuffed   
                                          & God
                                          ain't never gave a fuck!!  
We prayed
as we endeavored to bury ourselves
in the deceits & deprivations of
everyday survival   
                                 So many of us who bear the mark of Cain/ : the Black
                                 lives subject to breakable & what looks slow-
                                 motion as calamity in real time   one nation under God
& inequality  
& In-Just-Us   the police brutality
& murders of unarmed Black people
is not the anomaly   but rather the exact moment
that racism repeats itself
We kneel    We kneeled    We knelt . . .
against all racist cops   in protest of Officer Derek Chauvin
who kneeled on the neck
of a handcuffed black man
                                            (& the three cowards with badges 
                                            who stood by & did nothing/ : Thomas Lane
                                                                                             J. Alexander Kueng &
                                                                                             Tou Thao)    
even as he begged for his life
even as he cried out for his mother
even as Death entered   & consumed him 
                                      (If one cop
                                      murders a Black man &
                                      a thousand cops do nothing   then
                                      one thousand & one cops
                                                                       are murderers)

We knelt in a moment of silence
at the intersection of E. 38th
& S. Chicago Ave.    
for 9 minutes & 29 seconds
We knelt with our hands raised high 
as Amerikkka looked on   most often
their entitlement folded indifferent   maybe inwardly
they wished to be something new
& better
or   having been taught to hate &
fear blackness   would remain something traditionally evil &
institutionally twisted
I kneel in protest/ : fashioning
                               an incendiary gas-filled bottle   & red
                               jammed into the neck  
the combustion a/massed to kaboom!! 
the detonator Diamond match 
& whoooosh!! 
                           The conflagration
                           will continue   exponentially   
                           with a singlemindedness &
                           that will not be contained  
the flames &
                     smoke thundercloud-columned to justice
                     rising from the ruins
                     because some cities deserve to be burned


Note/:  Throughout the history of the struggle by Black citizens, for equality and inclusivity in all facets of AmeriKKKan life, they have religiously employed non-violent, and/or purely defensive measures, to garner the sympathy, understanding and support of fellow non-Black AmeriKKKans. And after centuries of marches, boycotts, petitions, legal challenges to enact effective legislation (more often than not, later amended to knocked toothless) and praying to an absent/invisible God like there's no tomorrow, Black people can still be legally lynched with disproportionate draconian laws, chokeholds, Tasers, beatings, bullets, or a bad cop's knee to the neck.    
Who said things are better than they used to be?



The Horror Found In Every Inexpressive System / Something
Vile And Dangerous Writhing In The Dirt

With this poem
I wanted to impeach the proclivities of the savage , Amerikkka’s
poltergeist inhumanity to Black folk . Is an epigenetic , post
-traumatic stress disorder , which is to say a spectral tremoring
that fractures memory into trauma , into horror 
repressed subconsciously, the erratic fragments of recollection
that appear, usually, as a cold sweat drenched night terror
, the terrifying images , the forever falling
into the bottomless void of an abyss , that startles us to scream
into what we believe to be awakened , then jump-scared / : 

(in films or television shows) a sudden or unexpected
event , typically involving , or accompanied by
a loud , jarring sound , intended to startle an audience
) , only to again reawaken , disoriented 
, by the nightmare buried within the dream . The ghostly
whiteness that invented a pseudoscientific category , a lower caste
, and spread a prejudiced contagion of erasure , spook metaphors
, or even, at times , just the night terror affect of a legal lynching
—reminds us that anyone who doesn't struggle , declare war 
against the enemy , can be replaced
, a visceral sense of Edgar Allen Poe , the horror
that is all that we see , or seem , is but a dream within a dream                    
that cannot be translated into compromise or compliance
—a persistent haunting
. The wild animal of life broke loose and was struck by the out-of
-nowhere speeding car [like a video of twelve-year-old Tamir Rice
being shot] his guillotined laughter once the guileless language of
joy , now pleading with each startled last breath , terrified , despite
his struggle to go on living , as if with each split second he absconded
deeper into a thorned tangle of tall grass [the tiger moonlit on the horizon
moved closer , slinking from the forest to rend , to rip , to devour the
child] as dashcams and bystanders , who wide-angled their cellphones
to only bear witness , suspended his assassination in the executioner’s noose
of Time , a Danse Macabre colored by the ricocheted echo of gunshots
in a city that terrorized all Black people , and I
am seeking an attitude , against the leadership of my country
for its inertia and its silence and , therefore , its complicity with
the evil of racism
. How many will the ghost of darkness pull down , before
Black folks take to the gun



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. He lives on the land that Amerikkkan mythology wants the world to believe was solely discovered, tamed, and ‘sivilized by white people.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Monday, August 21, 2023 - 11:39