& The Pastor Says...

                “Jesus Black life ain’t matter” ―Chance

The Pastor says
    “All lives matter”

& i'm convinced this sermon came from
white jesus. Appropriation
is the bible’s bronze feet being white washed.

    “All feet matter”

All feet ain't ready
to die for a nigga not
born yet, though―
    Black folk stay praying we not
    gifted bullet crowns,
    know the enemy in love
    with our death―
    want to erase the body,
    colonize culture―

        What about Black don’t sound Jesus?
        What about Jesus don’t sound
        like a father praying
        that he avoid murder
        till his children learn how
        to pray for more than Black life.

The Pastor won’t say
        Black
        &
        Jesus
in the same sermon.
The congregation is either
        Black
        Or
        Christian.

The congregation is either
        Dead
        Or
        too appropriated to know it’s dying.

        The Pastor is Black
too, but ain’t saved enough to admit
Jesus’ Black didn’t matter
until it became life―
until it became a salvation
worth stealing.

White people thank white jesus.
Black people think white jesus
will save his people; forget
    his people
    not Black.
No amen
for a Black church― all the lives ending
by the face they worship.

All That Blackness

maybe all that blackness
is pandora’s box afraid to learn
that there are evils an
entire America larger
than its ability to love.

maybe all that blackness
is pandora's box realizing it
is just a box and all that evil
had to be put there by something
or someone.

I know this
because they love your blackness―
will skin it from scalp
call it exotic
sing it in their music
cheat on their wives with it.

maybe all those curls really are
a forest
a bush
a barber shop seat
full of misplaced compliments
a conference room crawling
with fingers checking their authenticity.

maybe your skin really is soil.
maybe your cheekbones really are
not sunrises. maybe your mother
taught you wrong. maybe that’s
why they want to bury you.

Last Lesson from My Grandmother

there was a time where
you were a pool of energy
a subway
a trolley car from your days in San Francisco
a drug rush that you love to reassure me
was never worth it at the end of the line
you used to tell me
how you traveled nothing but a trainwreck path―
left college to cram a final
hit in abandoned buildings before
dawn reminded you the scariest part
of going high is not the fall, it’s landing
in the same place you took off.

you followed a boy to the Golden Gate Bridge
fell over the edge
landed behind bars
with a drug addiction and no demon to blame but yourself
you tell me walking out of that prison
is what taught you how to walk fast
faster than the odds against you―
never run, you say―
running is admitting you
are already defeated
that there is nothing in your future
to stop and smell except skin drenched kerosene
a noose
a razor
the rust of the Golden Gate bridge
where you plant your feet

Ash Wednesday

they will all hail the married man
call it a self inflicted kill shot
a threesome given up too early
they will sympathize with his home
littered with tampons and hair clips
ask him what is holy
about releasing his freedom
ask him if it is a temporary fast
if 40 days yield divorce
if splitting assets is
worth waiting on the court date
they will assume a mistress
will break everything
that there is no real God in his worship
that it must be a mockery or
he must have been a depressed child
now unable to live in solitude
they won’t believe in his happiness
won’t believe love is a beautiful sacrifice
he’s making for a worthy wife

Be Safe

Safety is only wished
upon those in danger,
like Paris,
like Brussels,
like all the battlegrounds we plant prayers on
before our own then wonder
why our children die
even though we tell them to be safe
whenever they leave our homes.
Safety doesn’t grow on our tongues,
is only an infected piercing
handed down to our children.

    The last time someone told me to be safe
    it stung all the way to my destination―
    there was no gospel chord to soothe the paranoia
    no trunt trap music amen amen
    to protect the ghetto my car becomes
    whenever my melanin moves in.

What is safety when you are the definition of danger?

    The first time i forgot
    to tell someone to be safe
    the silence became a luxury
    & what is it to own a luxury
    if you’re watching it leave your home for a casket?
    What is the casket but a way
    to apologize for
    not being safe enough
    to curve the bullet
    to feed your family
    to walk outside.

What is outside but a maze
filled with niggas
an army around the edges?

What are edges except
a street separating wealth & ghetto?

    last time I crossed
    the armed blue eyes frowned segregation
    into my nappy hair & I returned home
    grateful for the warning
    grateful for the empty houses
    & niggas hoodie up
    in the street all night
    would guarantee upon my arrival?
    What safer place is there than habitat?
    What safer place is there
    than where at least I know
    who wants me dead?
    What is safer than danger?
    What is safer than being black?

The last time I felt safe,
I could easily name someone who did not―
& that is my bigger fear:

    That I’ll discover safe & forget
    the names of everyone still searching

    & someone will say
        That nigga not dangerous
        That nigga not black
        That nigga just safe―

    Till they come through
    with a belly full of
    bullets, jail sentences, kinky hair, & hoodies
    to remind this nigga
        where he came from.

Justin Rogers

Justin Rogers is a poet, educator, coach and venue owner from the city of Detroit, Michigan. Rogers is an advocate for literacy among inner-city youth, and the amplification of Black voices. Rogers is an editor with the Urban-influenced literary journal WusGood.black and is still performing around the Mid-West. Through offering poetry programs with InsideOut Literary Arts, Rogers actively shares poems surrounding living and growing as a Black man in America. Rogers most recently has work published or forthcoming in APIARY Magazine, Mobius Magazine, and Tinderbox Poetry Journal.

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