Poems by Cyrée Jarelle Johnson | Performance Space New York

Poems by Cyrée Jarelle Johnson

Autistic Heaven has a room for every autistic
and rooms for many autistics to ramble, wander
wonder aloud at a musing that would bore those
left on their earth, those who sent us through
the gaps in creation. A bowl of earplugs by each
door, reliable headphones that don’t pinch
the cartilage. There shouldn’t be so many children
here , but when the rest arrive, we sit on the floor
until they’re cried out, and the bruises they arrived
with dry up. They take a deep breath and learn
to play the inside of a washing machine, xylophone
reinvented like voila! because what would you do
without us? Anyways, the new thing we send down
sounds like a bell and a drum dinging in circles
in the hands of the savant band. You’re welcome.
Here we go, pushing it through the veil in the brain
of a recycled soul. Another little one stacks boxes
in boxes on boxes and make her own tower, we have
a buttered spaghetti party in the tower. I tell her
no one can ever kill her again. She is the genius
the world requires to continue. It was their loss.
Those dragged along earth’s spine to Savannah
bolted back home with miraculous flight—
rose from the auction block, sweet falsetto
a howl that split a gold road through red sun
that would never open their backs. Perhaps
my ancestor lost her dance steps into the air.
Oh well. Sometimes it be like that. The air
too hot to ride, she says. Yet Savannah
slid below the bodies of friends, perhaps
the women she slept near—but they could fly.
Lacking any reasonable plan, sun
glowering towards her with pinched lips, a falsetto
voice walking from the kitchen, falsetto
through gap teeth, not stealing, sucking the air
forced through her mouth’s pinprick, haloed by sun
glow that swole her life to ruins. Savannah
sold her child from under her skirts. To fly
seemed the pride of a kicked dream, but perhaps
there was something to want even here, perhaps
love or sex or god. Her man: falsetto
in the woods church. She likes that. Still, can’t fly.
Heartbreak Day to gulf or grave, not the air
around her that hovers, spits Savannah
at her as her back bends. Low the red sun
with lips to her neck. Generations sun
glow grew into gold, into rain—perhaps
down the windows of cars to Savannah.
A cadillac—breaks never falsetto
always shine like buffed leather, cheat the air
of ego. Lifting up to pilfered flight.
Our lives better than death, but worse than flight.
A tan stolen from milder Northern suns,
but breath still beaten out our lungs. The air
too weak to hold us, still. We think perhaps
this year will change hope to fact. Falsetto
cry out pews from Philly to Savannah.
The coastal birds at falsetto pitch fly
to mock us but, perhaps, the reborn sun
o’er Savannah will lift us to the air.
Now Let the Weeping Cease
After Jericho Brown
After Sophocles

On this land, the weeping time never ceased.
The river is safer than the shore.
The river is safer than the shore
and death is more than a shade who hums back.
My death is a shade that hums back at me.
My ghost hums back across time’s night-vast gap.
Even the thought of a ghost bends time.
In which year is today situated?
Our situation is a spectral year,
a year dreamed as though it were a future.
A future soft as a child’s daydreams.
My childhood daydreams did not feature me.
I could not picture a featured future.
Now I cast shadows with shades and the night.
belial & morningstar & andromalius & baraqijal & penemuel & ronobe & zegan
Everybody knows I know a secret.
I’ve stared at windows until hands poked through
and I’ve nursed men left on my doorstep
with stern, unshorn nipples like fraying tissue.
We learned we could never go home, at least
not without making pistols of ourselves.
I was made to jaw on your fennel stalk;
we were made and raised to raise the fallen
and lift them high by their turgid taproots.
Everyone’s heard I saw two king snakes fuck.
Everyone knows I know who gets more pleasure
(The pleasure arrives for the taker, who takes
cacophonously, superfluously.)
The YES! PLEASE! fuck. The no, go home finish.
The YES! PLEASE! fuck finished, so run home
on the white bus clouded by need. Ya mama
wonders who’s been over. Says it was a black.
She can smell it. Must have been Blue Magic
smeared over your pillowcase. My head shape
dented and scented and haunting your fingertips.
Anyone but a black, she thinks.
Someone pretty and black, my mother hopes.
In this scene, no one gets what they’ve wanted.
In this scene, you Ask Jeeves “penis envy.”
In this scene, you fly me to Arizona
four stained fingers twist — twist —, inside, push — push —.
In every mirror you find a demon
four stained fingers twist — twist —, inside, push — push —.
In this house there is no god but Downelink
in this apartment we take rent in rimming
in this hovel you flash your dick on Path Trains
in this shack I suck you deep on the pier;
in this delusion you kiss me in public
in this delusion I meet your parents
in this delusion we have soft babies;
in this delusion you keep a steady
job. You are hard work. You are brute labor.
You are original sin in house paint,
and the tripod upon which the Pythia sat
and words repel you and my tongue does not
and we become sentient and escape
and string back into the Gordian knot.
You ox-cart king. You spiked silver seller
turned gold-stroker in the fire and tar woods
behind my house, framed in white flame. Antlers
draped in tiny lights we learned were beetles.
You did it. I let you and you did it.
Blood magic & Hennessy: I’m sorry.
I promise you — I paid, and paid, and paid
with eight years of no good dick, with violence.
Blood magic & Hennessy: I’m sorry.
If you must know, I loved you in loops
: first I’d puke on you, then watch you fold drawers,
little squares of black in Red Hook Houses.
Daddy. I look for you in other faces
changed by years of no good dick and violence.
In this scene, I Google “penis envy”
my stern, unshorn nipples like fraying tissue.
Daddy, I look for you in other faces
four stained fingers twist — twist —, inside, push — push —.
You must know that I loved you in loops,
blood magic, and Hennessy. I’m sorry.
In this hovel, you flash your dick on Path Trains
changed by years of no goodness and violence.
In this delusion I meet your parents,
have soft babies, you keep a steady job.
Behind our house, framed in white flame: antlers
draped with tiny lights we learned were beetles.
Everyone’s heard I saw two king snakes fuck.
Everybody knows I know a secret.
What song to sing in tired times as now
when new sprung shoots are crushed beneath the heels
of time, before they grow? Blossom snipped low
by fate’s callous blade. How that sorrow feels
like opening to the pain of the world.
Wholed by a light at the snuff of your day,
the end to a story impeccably told.
Though now we must trudge an opposite way
stay close to us. The ones we love who’ve gone
on to glory, or horror, or nothing—all
linked, ever in memory. Names etched in bone,
or page, or slates of stone on graveyard sprawl.
Yes, grief is a sored horse that bucks and hurts,
yet we tug the reins and survive the worst.
Old Familiar
When Watchnight breaks and we’re still all together.
When the cobweb’s shadow is sucked from the corners
of last year and the house glossed in easy tomorrows
we eat and we become a single thing. Forgetting the turn
of the card, so far behind us as to be before us again,
tonight we will make new promises, make love all night
then lose our tempers, drink to sway, fuck all night
and not be sweet about it neither. Just to be together.
And if this one texts an ex, or falls off the wagon again,
if we forget the slip of your sweet in light of your corners
it’s no such thing. We’ll come back to love. We’ll turn
to you and listen to your song tonight, and tomorrow
we’ll find a way to retire the habit. Apologize tomorrow
and so sincerely as to flush the hurt. We people of night
runs to wood panel liquor stores, people of been turned
out experience, people of sweat, people of put together
then disheveled come morning. Joy dotting each corner
as we walk home in or with our finest. Next year, again.
Next year, I’ll plant the special morning glories, drip again
in a once weed-owned stamp of dirt, save seed for tomorrow
in smug assumption it will come (and it will come.) Corners
pressing out the old ways, evil or divine, multiplying like night
across the meridian. The sap that snaps us each together?
The vast drumbeat of gravity that hems up each of us in turn?
Next year, we’ll learn to ride it. In our stirrups, ankles turning
steer us past the futile present. So what you got drunk again,
next year we’ll meet up after the meetings, work it out together.
We are your community. We love you. Call me late tomorrow.
or whenever. I know that the hardest part can be the nights.
Maybe you don’t feel it yet, but I think you turned the corner.
Hark, The New Year! In sequins! Ringing her bell in the corner
of the sweat- fogged room! The clock hands kiss, you turn
to face me, your lips a blush across my neck until the night
answers twilight’s questions, then snore in wait of night again.
Might as well sleep. You’ll head to work at dawn tomorrow.
I’ll watch your eyes flicker in the cold room. Let’s stay together.
I wasn’t sure but now I’m certain. I see and love your corners.
Thank you for spending new years with my people, their skin turn
glow in faint street light. My people, whose glory rivals the night.

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