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Category: Marty McConnell

Radio silence, WENZ, WJMO, Cleveland

I start down the road but I’m the road. Or

the stripes on the road. White. Edgeindicative.

A professor says, the history

of American music is Black history. He says it

to get a rise out of us but it’s true. Or might be

as true as anything. He’s teaching poetry

to a room of grad students paying

out the nose for degrees their parents

and other practical people know

to be without use. A road is practical.

Stoplights, guardrails, signage

regarding the merging of lanes:

practical. As a kid I learned

about the safety on a gun. A red button

pushed to keep it from firing. I learned

on a BB gun. For killing bats

in the family’s summer cabin. I presume

all guns have safeties, but I don’t know

a lot about them. I know it’s easier

to aim when you’re afraid. I know

how fear rises up from the knees, how it runs

up through the gut into the hands. I started

down this road and now I’m the road so

here: a man waited 1.5 seconds

to shoot a Black boy playing

with a toy gun. The man

was a white man. Police

man. The boy was twelve, was Tamir, is

dead. The history of guns is a history

of safeties. I start down the road

but I’m the gun. I start

down the road but I’m the person

on the phone calling 911. I say it

to get a rise out of me. I say something

about safeties. Something about

Tamir’s sister tried to run to him

but was tackled and handcuffed

while he bled out from the gut

on the playground. It’s important

to say this. It is a thing my people

did. The term “paying out the nose”

has its origins in a Danish law

whereby delinquent taxpayers

were punished by having

their noses slit. It’s history. In an area

with a history of avalanches, signs

are posted: Falling Rock. In an area

with a history of murder, streets are named

after assassinated Black leaders. When I say

a history of murder, I do not mean music

though white men love murder ballads.

I do not mean music though frat boys

use Lil Wayne lyrics as an excuse

to say the N-word in public. Years ago

a man told me the history of American music

is Black history, and I believed him.

Turn it up now, whatever station it is.

I don’t know how to end this.

from Poetry Northwest 12.1 Summer & Fall 2017More by Marty McConnell from the library

Copyright © Marty McConnell
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

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