Poem by Hannah Brown

 

Mister America

–on white privilege, white allyship, and the fact that acting on the latter rests on a recognition of the former–

Mister America
Your fingers are long
and thin
but your knuckles
are swollen with arthritis.
They do not bend
when you
shake.

Twenty eight.
You feed your babies
cereal boxtops and
breath mints from the creases
of your palm
As alms
And
Point your twisted index
in judgment at their
tiny damp hands
that curl and
recoil like
chubby starfish.

Twenty seven.
Twenty
six.
Mister America
you were born
on the fourth
of July.
You are wry
and cunning and your syrupy sky
sticks to the roofs
of mouths. Your backwash tributaries are mucousy channels
stagnant between slabs of mud, refusing
to sink in your Earth ’til
flash floods turn the banks
to soup.
They sit
as faucet water sits and stews
in gridlocked cracks between bathroom tiles,
waiting,
spawning mildew. You
Mister America
are the land of all
or nothing.

Twenty five.
Mister America,
The open door.
Twenty four.
Mister America,
Land
of the free
shit
Chomp chomping
At the bit.
Twenty
three.
Your back
shed toolbox is
definitely
first-class, built to last,
full of
birdbaths and
burlap sacks and
notebooks crammed with nature crafts because your kids
learned all about fixing the environment at Earth Day.
You slap clay magnets,
finger-painted planets
frantically across your fridge
in recognition. Collaged:
“On a mission to lower
Emissions.”
Twenty two.
Still-wet glue
glistens in a glob
beside paper plated Africa
Your eye white
glistens in a glob as you eye
your honor student
sticker with greed.
Twenty one.
He’s gonna
get into an Ivy,
Indeed. Twenty.
Nineteen.
Just have to wait
For him to turn
eighteen.

Mister America
Soon it will be spring and your babies
will crawl single file from their cages
toward new ones
They’ll be clambering for four leaf clovers,
hammering each other in games of Red Rover
in rusty parks
well past
dark.
February had the nerve to March into April so you say
February
your month
is over, I don’t care it’s
New England and winter lasts forever,
It’s colder
than the Arctic
at night
and I’m
a good man,
alright? I celebrate
Earth Day seventeen
I’m ready
For spring
alright
My candle
burns white
Let my heat
back on
My pipes burst open on
he who’d challenge me
to an ethics fight. Sixteen.
Turn off
The lights.
I won’t see.
Fif
teen.

Mister America,
full of rights
Fourteen.
Mister America
bites
his tongue never
Thirteen
America,
make things
better
Mister America
push
the lever

Twelve.
Mister America
Your plastic pots melt
Like butter
You fathered children
By many mothers, protected
those sisters and
little brothers
you choose to show off
in portraits. Eleven.
You gave them porches
And willow trees
Blue suited bodyguards
Armed with M-16s,
Hypoallergenic lotions
and organic kale
Nutritional judgment to hurl at mothers
Who work like hell at three jobs
in your absence. Ten and
You and
You in the den
sipping your
absinthe, laughin
loud
You
fathered children
by many mothers, neglected
those with noses shoved under covers at night
waiting for the stifled rifle shots
to stop,
your child support check
to come in.
Mister America,
They are patient
as they lie
In the waiting rooms
You’ve made
Of their sidewalks
Nine
They are patient as they listen to you talk
About nothing
Eight
They are patient as they wait
to be patients
abandoned
in your office
God bless
patience.
God bless the blood smeared
white and blue nation.
Mister America
your babies
are dying at your feet
and their siblings keep
looking away.

Hey
Mister America
the babies
are hungry
They eat breath mints
In place of communion,
Watch themselves bleed
Holy wine into streets as you
secede from the union
again.
Bread goes stale and refuses
To leaven. Heaven slumps
on marble shoulders below necks
that altogether forget
to twist in its direction.
Seven.
A boy
Is shot outside seven eleven
By a man who said
He was you, mister America
Six. Eighteen years snuffed
In seconds but no one reports
The use of force
Against him five
Twenty five year old
Sick man is shot
Three times in the chest
Are you sick of this
Yet four
Once more
Outside a convenience store
A second command
Because he was wearing headphones, didn’t hear
They heard he had a gun so the command
Came in the form of a bullet
Three
A minor traffic violation,
warrant for speeding previously
He resists
Being taken into custody, and a cut shows up below his chin
Then some injuries
Killed him hours later
On the hospital bed
But they didn’t
report those ones
Two
Who
Are you going
to be,
Mister America?
One
Unarmed black man is killed every 28 hours by a police officer or vigilante extrajudicially. Three hundred and
thirteen died this way in 2012 alone and that’s just what was reported. If you think this is sordid I implore you to
join me in refusing to be silent. 28 hours’ silence permits another murder that we didn’t say shit about. It’s time to
lace up our boots and examine the roots of systemic violence and refuse to embrace colorblindness. It’s time we
refuse to let another 28 hours go by.
America.
Don’t watch
another innocent
man
die.

 

Artwork © Ira Joel Haber
Artwork © Ira Joel Haber

 

Hannah Brown is a Boston area-based poet and spoken word artist. Her oldest loves are underground hip hop and the written word, which are equally influential on her passion for and perspective on her own work. Hannah sees poetry as a powerful tool for discourse, and because of that, as instrumental in personal and collective healing.

Ira Joel Haber was born and lives in Brooklyn. He is a sculptor, painter, book dealer, photographer and teacher. His work has been seen in numerous group shows both in USA and Europe and he has had 9 one man shows including several retrospectives of his sculpture. His work is in the collections of The Whitney Museum Of American Art, New York University, The Guggenheim Museum, The Hirshhorn Museum and The Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Since 2007 His paintings, drawings, photographs and collages have been published in over 160 on line and print magazines. He has received three National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, two Pollock-Krasner grants, the Adolph Gottlieb Foundation grant and, in 2010, he received a grant from Artists’ Fellowship Inc. He currently teaches art to retired public school teachers at The United Federation of Teachers program in Brooklyn.

 

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