April 02, 2018

Two Nights on 16th Street

keyon gaskin performing this is an artwork... at The Lab on March 15. Photo: Alexander Girard.

keyon gaskin performing this is an artwork… at The Lab on March 15. Photo: Alexander Girard.

We asked Tongo Eisen-Martin to respond to Simone Bailey’s Sway, Clench, Release (Requiem No. 415), performed February 24 as part of The Lab’s 16th and Mission Project in the BART Plaza, and keyon gaskin’s this is an artwork…, performed March 15–16 at The Lab as part of the CounterPulse Festival. —Eds.


First, I must apologize to the souls of the house
             Wearing the cheek bones of the mask only
                         Pill bottle, my name is yours

Teeth of the mask now

Back of the head of the mask now

                        New phase of anti-anthropomorphism fending for real faces           
Pretending to be a drug addict by day and reading all night  
While economists return to rumors of oxygen

Stuck with one of those cultures that believes I chose this family

I am not creative
Just the silliest of the revolutionaries

Conversing with the psychic middleman
Wannabe mayor
About hating your enemies
A little more realistically

Our eyesight returning to red
Notepad swimming to red
Bracing for the medicine’s recoil

I need my left hand back
I broke my neck on the piano keys
Found paradise in a fistfight

Watching the universe’s last metronome
            Some have the nerve
                        To call a homeless teenager

Just wait
These religions will start resigning
In a decade or two

Some colorfully
Some transactionally

Children watching and identifying with people

In a cotton gothic society

Class betrayal
Gone glassless

I mean ironically
My window started fogging over too

Common phrases for gate numbers
                          Poor peoples’ hands
                          for chewable sanctity
                                                           Toned down debris
                                                           And a movable me

Fifty-two presidents for the sake of this card trick

I remember childhood
Remember the word “Childhood” being a beginning


The important thing to understanding the political economy of an empire is
How a lie is experienced

A poet loses his mind, you know, like the room has weather
Or first-girlfriend gravity
Poem gravity
Mind-game gravity
Or revolution languishing behind
The sugar in my good friend’s mind

The difference between me and you
Is that the madness
Wants me forever

Bright lights behind hyena eyes
I mean, if I had to fall in love today
My grandchildren would be doomed

Flush against my face
I hold the gun
Only to make sure that my hand is real

I am one argument beyond the possibility
Of being one person

A pair of apartments
            Defining both my family
            And political composure

Books behind my back
Bail money paved into the streets


Sharing a dirty deli sandwich with my friend
A cosmic tool counted on by scared people

Psychology of the mask now

Teeth of the mask again

Comments (1)

  • This is not poetry. It’s just senseless ranting and rambling.
    There is no form, no structure, no meter; not even an attempt to consider any melodic quality. The line breaks are arbitrary. This freewriting project is meaningless and unimportant.
    The only thing I have come to understand about the speaker in this “poem” is that he likes to complain. I bet the author is the same way.
    This whole “free-verse” myth is nothing more than just that: a myth. It’s people like this guy who have ruined poetry by claiming that poetry, and art in general, are whatever you want them to be. Your kind have brought chaos and disorder the same way you’ve brought chaos and disorder to the streets of Portland, Kenosha, Oakland, Chicago, and more.

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