Besides being my biggest critic, I confess my struggle with writing sensibly about Black masculinity — as with other useful migraines. Like most topics that singe raw nerves, it becomes a problem to find an authoritative voice, to research the topic with savvy and deepness, to take seriously those who claim to know. Black masculinity is a traveling miasma. A forgotten address. A devious destination. It also offers with its leprous hand, a healthy conundrum. So that having to write about the topic in free-verse poetry is contagious and punishment enough. In sinking black, under this burden of make-believe masculinity. Alas, my now leprous hand…
Boy, ask not what it be to be a man, Black,
Here comes the white casket, an excellent fiction.
Here comes the bastard in the story.
The ballad man, they called him Mr. Black F. Masculine,
Seize a stool, boy,
B.F. Masculine, will daze.
There once was a bruised knuckle Papa,
Why, they spoke of a fogged window Mama,
Hold your ears, boy,
This is how it went down.
A red kite lay trapped in razor wire,
A caged lion, the holidaymakers poked,
A single malt barrel leaked in the basement,
And the joys you dare hold dear, could slip through bad teeth,
To stay those of damp Virginia slims that still come ablaze.
One morning, two buttons went missing, a shoelace came broken,
A little Black boy ran for the bayou,
A knife in his back, he took with him.
His black wrists lay in wait for the violence of pulp fiction,
His ears with the crackle of breaking twigs,
The hot exhales of a searching dog,
Yoo-hoo, steady now boy, we aren’t done with you’s yet.
Your Papa hung up those matinee educations, they said.
But this here’s a gone theater that echoes, they promised.
Thirteen coils makes one hangman’s noose, they said,
Act natural, let’s not any sudden moves make, I’d say.
B.F. Masculine, the tortured drummer, did he become.
And when by God, he did not try the noose for fit, a beard did he grow,
Impressed by fingernails in Lincoln’s bed,
By the perfume in the corridor, a white girl, Sallie, was near,
He inspected a misplaced blonde hair,
Stored same under pillow,
Sweet sleep, a smile in the dark did it bring.
He grew a bicep and a cerebellum,
That phallic chap pleasured the cathedral piano,
Hunted women by day, tom-cats by night.
Now he is gay and grey,
B.F. Masculine wields a steeled Messianic complex,
Steel-coat testicles, they said.
He knows that if he squeezes his anal sphincter he can trick a polygraph.
He knows if they’s kill swinging lightbulb, the night guard passed whistling,
Soon he takes small Black woman wife to darkness,
Unlike Sallie, she is a bad coffee maker in light.
He loves badly, sadly, to prove point.
Now he is just grey old B.F Masculine, Ph.D.
He says no to perfect coffee.
The rain exposes buried jewels: DSM IV, that Barnum effect,
Diabetes II, that limestone prostrate,
4 of his 5 dentists agree: a black tooth in a white line up does no good.
And because pollen of strange flowers in shirt pockets are tough to loose,
Because of Police wahala. Of Old news, Because Black man fits the description,
There was a song on his tongue he never really remembered.
Age gentle, die fresh.
Adieu, Black boy,
Life expectancy: 52
Cause of death: Pulling flint from imaginary beard.
And when golden, only when golden,
Did his wishes become horses,
To pull that black hearse.
He gallops now into that dark hysteria,
To radiate some Machiavellian fitness,
The rotten sanguinary of Nietzsche.
Come hell, come death, come sweet Atlantic, no man goes to heaven in black.
A delicate wood sliced clean by crashing ax, he will be called good and faithful servant,
A stolen Bukowski book that whispers when it rains,
The smell of wild udala fruit in harmattan,
A soulmate in arms sweeter when dead.
A father bad at fathering?
Speak no evil of the dead, boy.
This is what B.F. Masculine was to this town, boy.
What about you? You ask.
You my boy are the star on the pedestal,
There are windows in your heaven,
Your eyes should never meet limestone feet, you’re tomorrow,
And your death begins today.
Boy, don’t you dare ask what it be to be a man, black,
Like B.F. Masculine?
Shh. Silence. Here comes the white casket, an excellent fiction.
Our anger so righteous, your little Black head it will do in.
One more thing, which of these fools do you call father?
The one in the white casket.
Fascinating. My condolences.
Indeed, B.F. Masculine was a great man.