Maybe it’s easier to name a racist in post-structural space.
Baraka manifested metaphors rather than bodies in copula
And Michel mimicked narratives of power
In salons where stick figures watched from chandeliers.
That’s what happens to marginal systems and rugged landscapes
Where all matter begins or ends with a poor prognosis
Like Christmas lights beginning to flicker
or nylon stockings ripped by a cat’s claws.
Skin isn’t polychromatic just because we want our love to last
But your father reminded you what a negress is for
And you said, Don’t take it so seriously before telling me—
We can’t have a baby though Elliot is a good name for a boy
and I always wanted a daughter named Merida.
Prescribing psychoanalysis Freud said women are no substitute for men
when trauma and sex converge
And the Ego is sublimated by interior monologue
Otherwise I would stand in the way of your full potential
And who would want that except someone in a colonized tribe?
My femur is shaped like a double-helix
Reminding me that I am related to gibbons
And that our family tree has more than two hundred branches
Not as many as that Inga you showed me growing near the foot of Arenal
Like a brown flower in wet season invaded by toucans and termites
A miniature community dominated by benign epiphytes—
matte green and camouflage yellow
The color of my skin descending onto Juan Santamaria’s tarmac
Oily like my hair after days without soap
Bubbles fragile as a crystal flute holding cold champagne
Celebrating the baby tapir foraging in our forest
Whose canopy is shuddered by Guanacaste winds
as I shuddered
Startled by the Bothrops about to strike—
striking the infant for fear she would leave me
Closer to Stonehenge than Talamancas or Bribri
Mothers carrying infants to the priest from Cartago
carrying wafers and juice for blessings he once believed in
Before his manhood spread throughout the mountains
Echoing the names of children he would never know.
Chimeras doubling like twins in the midst of meiosis
Developing while negro women fought on the corner of Georgia Avenue
After their lover pranced around them unsteady on his feet
Neighing words like babies’ babblings boistrous as dawn robins
Or trains emerging from tunnels hanging on rails routed to Brooklyn
Where Prospect Park was renovated, subjected to trash removal
Like dust removed from crown moldings in the great hall
Medieval relics mingling with German artifacts
gold coins from Frankfurt
once traded by the Büddenbrooks for a twelve-year-old Kongo princess
trained for household duties
and for shopping in the marketplace
Where fresh hams and black bread were bought for lunch.
Germany is the natal nation-state
Where families have tilled the same plots for six-hundred years
Though short-term memory decays after seven seconds
And anyone in Brooklyn can drive to Jersey in an hour.
Spring arrived early so the house smelled of lilacs in February
The grape arbor fulgent with fruit tempting her to eat
But she had walked two blocks to borrow a cup of sugar for peach jam
Ruing sunny days turning strawberries from white to red—
Naked in the field, she lay on the warmest mound praying for snow.
- Bell Curve
It was more than a trivial exercise to compose a one-word poem
Existing as an exclamation
Asking to be recognized for what it was on its own terms
Ruing all the other words missing the final cut.
Oleander was discarded, and, hypothesis
both more musical than theory
The word now standing alone amid original morphemes
destined for elimination.
I have a theory that my appointment will be canceled
Because my doctor doesn’t want to give me bad news
Knowing I prefer to choose the safest of all bad options.
Being bit by a Bothrops is no better or worse than being bit by a cobra
But being bit by a coral snake is worse than being bit by its mimic.
All knowledge is theoretical
Though there is always a margin of error of greater or lesser magnitude
When the landscape is vast and multispatial
And dimensions map weakly on a flat plane made of ice
Around Arenal’s rim banked by snow.
Everything depends on national narratives
And the serialization of codes reducing many to few.
- Whales are disappearing from the Sea Of Japan
Why did Peggy’s brother blow his head off after throwing a turkey across the room
Since Thanksgiving is the hopeful holiday
before winter snows laminate the air
And Santa Claus brings me Barbie Dolls dressed like reindeer?
My skin turned xanthous eating Charlotte Russe with buttered toast
And cockatoos waited for cockcrow’s soft light instantiating the children.
Madam Butterfly was so sad that I left my cat outside with lonely pets
before they were rescued by a bored Japanese fisherman
collecting stray animals that liked bluefin tuna.
A factory in Aichi cans threatened fish
Selling boatloads to royalty eating it on soda crackers topped with curd
Before PETA charged me with animal cruelty—
Believing my short girlfriend who said
She is an animal-lover who plans to live alone for the rest of her life.
I never give gifts on holidays, saving money for my yearly trip to Kanegawa
where monkeys romp on temples and harass tourists.
- Wait here to be seated
When Jerry jumped off the cliff out West
A birdwatcher thought the speed was too slow to cause damage.
Every day I see a blue jay around six o’clock—
time for my run up Indian Point
Where Jerry undressed for the last time, reducing friction
Before I went birdwatching
but only saw bats echolocating fireflies
toxic to neurotics and cellists.
My daughter asked me for the secret to success
So I said Learn to suffer humiliation by exposing all your weaknesses
before showing anyone your strengths.
Yesterday, I came home to see
A blonde woman standing on my porch
holding a drawing of Imelda Marcos
Which I saw clearly through my opera glasses.
Even though my door is unlocked
I use my key to enter the house in case someone is watching
Since every moment counts when you fear your own neighborhood.
- Biosphere 2 was funded by oil money
I heard about Michelle.
Cradling a beet at the market I thought of a chambered heart
No longer pumping life into a hand once floating across linen paper—
A scribe of momentary genius writing for everything unable to endure
or that lingered too long.
I listened to the cries of cats roaming underground
Where fish floated up from the Hudson
Silent as clouds floating above the Throgs Neck Bridge
Which she climbed looking down at foam waiting to catch her
As love had not when he fled without remorse—
every woman her own keeper.
She never knew loneliness
Whenever I sorted produce for a Spring salad
Of watercress and artichokes tossed with criminis and lemon oil
clean as mist over flowing water
keeping moss green along the banks
Where a child would search for shards of glass the color of eggplant.
Bio: Clara B. Jones is a retired scientist, currently practicing poetry in Silver Spring, MD (USA). As a woman of color, Clara writes about the “performance” of identity, alienation, and power and conducts research on experimental poetry. Her poems, reviews, essays, and interviews have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous venues. Clara’s collection, Ferguson And Other Satirical Poems About Race, won the 2015 Bitchin’ Kitsch Chapbook Competition, and Autopsy, her chapbook of exploratory poems, was published in April 2016 by Gauss PDF.