- Manifesto, or Ars Poetica #2 by Krista Franklin
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Give me the night, you beasts hissing over the face of this dead
woman, I climb into your eyes, looking. To those who would sleep
through the wounds they inflict on others, I offer pain to help them
awaken, Ju-Ju, Tom-Toms & the magic of a talking burning bush.
I am the queen of sleight of hand wandering the forest of motives,
armed with horoscopes, cosmic encounters & an X-Acto knife. My
right eye is a projector flickering Hottentot & Huey Newton, my
left eye is prism of Wild Style, gold grills, lowriders, black dahlias,
blunts & back alleys. At twenty-one, I stood at the crossroad of Hell
& Here, evil peering at me behind a blue-red eye. I armed myself
with the memories of Pentecostal tent revivals, apple orchards, the
strawberry fields I roamed with my mother & aunts in the summer,
& the sightings of UFO lights blinking in the black of an Ohio
nightsky. I am a weapon. I believe in hoodoo, voodoo, root workers,
Dead Presidents, Black Tail, Black Inches & Banjees. I believe in the
ghosts of 60 million or more & black bones disintegrating at the
bottom of the Atlantic, below sea level, Not Just Knee Deep. I believe
that children are the future: love them now or meet them at dusk
at your doorstep, a 9mm in their right hand & a head noisy as a
hornet’s nest later. Your choice.
Black, still, in the hour of chaos, I believe in Royal Crown, Afro-Sheen,
Vaseline, Jergens & baby powder on breasts, the collective conscious,
cellular memory, Public Enemies, outlaws, Outkast, elevations,
“Elevators” & Encyclopedia Britannica. Under my knife, El-Hajj Malik
El-Shabazz laughs with Muhammad Ali, a Lady named Day cuddles
with a Boxer named Mister after traumatically stumbling on strange
fruit dangling from one of the most beautiful Sycamores evah. Under
my knife, Marilyn Monroe enjoys an evening out with Ella Fitzgerald,
meanwhile, Life shows me a gigantic photo. I am a weapon. I chart
voyages of unlove, high on a man called crazy who turns nigger into
prince. I believe in Jong, Clifton, “Dirty Diana” & Dilla, paper, scrilla,
green, gumbo, coins, Batty Bois & Video Vixens. I believe that beads
at the ends of braids are percussive instruments in double Dutch.
In the reflection of my knife, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington &
Thelonious Monk argue in a Basquiat heroin nod. I am a weapon.
I believe in goo-gobs of deep brown apple butter, alphabets, Alaga
Syrup, Affrilachians, A-salaam Alaikum, Wa-Alaikum-Salaam,
& African Hebrew Israelites. I believe in Octoroons, Quadroons,
Culluds, Cooley High, Commodores, Krumpin, Krunk & Burn,
I am Sethe crawling a field toward freedom with a whitegirl talking
about velvet. I believe in tumbleweaves, hot combs & hair lyes, Chaka
Khan, Shaka Zulu, Mau Mau, Slum Village & Buhloone Mindstate:
“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless. Like water.” I believe
in water. My body is pulp. I bleed ink. I believe in the Fantastic, Vol.
2, The Low End Theory, Space Is the Place & The Hissing of Summer
Lawns. Tucked in the corner of my right ventricle sprouts a Tree of
Knowledge, lives a Shining Serpent & a middle finger. I’m on a quest
for the Marvelous. My face is a mask of malehood, malevolence, one
big masquerade. Metaphysically niggerish, I am a weapon wandering
the forest of motives, a machete in one hand, a mirror in the other,
searching for the nearest body of water.
More from this issue
This poem originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of Poetry magazine
By Kush Thompson
I Look to Theory Only When I Realize That Somebody Has Dedicated Their Entire Life to a Question I Have Only Fleetingly ConsideredBy Kenneth Goldsmith
By T'ai Freedom Ford
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Poet and visual artist Krista Franklin was raised in Dayton, Ohio, and educated at Kent State University, where she earned a BA. Influenced by Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, and the writers of the Black Arts Movement, Franklin layers personal, pop cultural, and historical imagery, interrogating race, gender, and class through narrative. Her poetry is included in the anthologies Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade (2006), Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam (2001), and The Bust Guide to the New Girl Order (1999).
Franklin is also a visual artist, focusing primarily on collage. Addressing the connection between her poetry and her visual art in an interview with the Experimental Arts Examiner, Franklin stated, “Typically my poems and collages start with an image in my head or a line from something that evokes a picture in my head, and I work from there. Over the...
Poems By Krista Franklin
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