National Poetry Month Day 1: M’Bilia Meekers

By

M’Bilia Meekers is a queer poet who has received fellowships from Cave Canem, The Watering Hole, and Poets & Writers. Her work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in the New Yorker, Guernica, Split Lip, Foglifter, Tinderbox, Adroit Journal and more. She received her MFA in poetry from NYU and lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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GEOGRAPHY OF A BAD AMERICAN

so you say you’re finished with this country and the city
finished with the bludgeoned buildings and the couple screaming
outside your apartment window this morning you find five orange seeds
in the pocket of your jeans put a thong on backwards sit in butter

you throw out an old blouse because it smells like Brooklyn Lager
then watch a woman balance clear bags of tin cans
on the ends of an unscrewed broom
she rifles through your trash because you are wasteful

you buy coffee too often this morning the trains gasp in the tunnel
and you see steam rising from cracks in the pavement and think
soon the street will bust wide open better move along better get to where
you’re going across the borough crowds have gathered at the airport

and lawyers station at unfolded plastic tables in the papers you read
the words pro bono and habeas corpus and have no idea what they mean
but really who reads papers anymore you saw it on your Newsfeed
and now you keep thinking the name’s kinda misleading

but you certainly still feel like it’s feeding you something
the way you used to stuff beignets in your mouth until
your pants were covered in powdered sugar and you began
to feel sick you are still just a girl getting fingered

in front of the bar in a town between Mobile and Galveston
along the coast of Apollinaire’s Texas you still flirt
with women who’ll never kiss the back of your neck
and want tattoos of gators hugging the Louisiana boot

they want nothing to do with you because you are bad
at puzzles and American geography you know
the names of more airports than capital cities and this afternoon
men in blue suits push by you so they won’t be late

for lunch reservations at Delmonico’s and you walk uphill
to the ramen shop by the Federal Reserve not making eye
contact with the guards holding assault rifles in their arms like small
children not looking at the slits in the stone twenty feet up the wall

that believe they’re windows but the bars stare down
at all the passing people like your mother on the day she said
you’re a terrible human on the way home from school parked
at the corner near the house with white paint and leaning pillars

where you’d fuck a weed dealer in college who stashed all his buds
in large mason jars and hid them behind the sofa every time
there was a knock at the door he used to pull out the sticky green plugs
with a pair of tweezers but in New York the ramen is warm and you pretend

you’re far from men who’d do you harm you fumble with chopsticks slurp
noodles discuss Godzilla poems with a friend and this time you do not call
your ex when the Scot who followed you home one night from the bar
stalks you online from Dumfries you could disappear anywhere

could look in vain for the source of the Mississippi as if it were a virgin
spring walk along its tributaries or bash in a hornet’s nest
with a baseball bat to see the insect’s angry swooping
and feel the rush of hopping onto the bed of a friend’s pickup

banging on the roof yelling drive drive you blink your dumb eyes
at a computer screen for five hours then leave you are tired
of being part of the mass of bodies moving into the unconscious
underground you retweet a video of Trump holding up

an executive order that’s been photoshopped with a toddler’s
scribble of cat and when you laugh it makes the white men
sitting next to you shift their weight from one hip to the other
one of them is reading the personal protection issue of Shooting Times

you’ve wrapped your scarf around your head to shield your ears
from the cold wind and he keeps staring and that makes you want to spit
bigot before you dash through the subway doors but you see the magazine
and decide instead to look at the floor on the stairs there’s a woman begging

but you turn the other direction and make up some reason to give her nothing
this evening there’s steam leaking from the radiator in a hiss and you open
the kitchen window two inches to feel the chill on your shoulders and you notice
your roommate’s cat only wants to rub against your calves

after digging through litter you play “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac
then find yesterday’s unfinished baguette try to reconstitute the bread in butter
and the yolk of a fried egg you love breakfast for dinner then a bourbon and sugar
you drink too often here wonder if yellow pills are growing in your liver last week

when you called your mother she was making arrangements for death in the woods
in Natchitoches waiting for your father at shelter number six shielded from
a few big drops of water then sudden downpour and she told you how the air
soaked her with petrichor and how she could distinguish

seven kinds of rain by the way the air felt on her chin this evening it reminds you
of the way she says hurt instead of heart as though her pericardial sack
drapes over the chambers like a torn mosquito net sometimes you’re mad
at her and dad for not warning you about the whipstitch of disappointments

you find in yourself while sitting in the shower and somehow the tap of water
against the curtain sounds like the slow opening of crumpled paper
in your bedroom you rub the towel over your belly and thighs light a geranium
candle then blow it out you want to dream of paintings by Kerry James Marshall

whole canvases of black paint against a white gallery a girl who lowers
an American flag between two boys reciting the pledge and almost
blocks out their faces you make a nest out of pillows and a duvet
and suddenly you are the boy who lies down in a black ellipse

you are the pink bubbles of smoke that signal the sacred aldermen of the sun
the sighs of the garbage truck and the workers moving slowly through the blue
morning in their orange vests that will lift you into a fever tree
swing you into sutures of peach light that tighten all around the skin


Original poetry published by The Rumpus. More from this author →