National Poetry Month Day 17: Tongo Eisen-Martin





The Chicago Prairie Fire

First, I must apologize to the souls of the house
            I am wearing the cheek bones of the mask only
                                                Pill bottle, my name is yours
                                                Name tagged on the side of a factory of wrists


Teeth of the mask now

Back of the head of the mask now

                        New phase of anti-anthropomorphism fending for real faces

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

I am not creative
Just the silliest of the revolutionaries

                                                                                                My blood drying on
                                                                                                   my only jacket
                                                                                                      just as God got playful

the police state’s psychic middlemen
Evangelizing for the creation of an un-masses
An un-Medgar
Blood of a lamb less racialized
or awesome prison sentence
Good God
Elder-abuse hired for the low
dog eat genius

Right angle made between a point
On a Louisiana plantation
And 5-year old’s rubber ball
3 feet high and falling
like a deportee plane
to complete my interpretation
(of garden variety genocide)

I am small talk
about loving your enemies
A little more realistically

About paper tigers
And also gold…

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

            Maybe I should check into the Cuba line

Watching the universe’s last metronomes
some call Black Jacobins


Just wait…
These religions will start resigning in a decade or two

Some colorfully
Some transactional-ly

In a cotton gothic society

Class betrayal gone glassless/ I mean ironically/ my window started fogging over too
Wondering which Haiti will get me through this winter
Which poem houses souls

Which socialist breakthroughs
Breakthroughs like ten steps back
Then finally stillness

Then stillness among families

a John Brown biography takes a bow

I’m up next to introduce Prosser to Monk

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

Scribbling on an amazing grace

I rented this body from some circumference of slavery

Remember being kicked out of the Midwest

Strange fruit theater
Lithium and circuses
Likeminded stomachs
The ruling class blessing their blank checks with levy foam…
                                                                                    with opioid tea
Sentient dollar bills yelling to each other pocket to pocket
Cello stands in the precinct for accompanying counterrevolutionaries

My mother raised me with a simple pain

A poet loses his mind, you know, like the room has weather
Or first-girlfriend gravity
Police-knock 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”

A pair of apartments
Defining both my family
And political composure

Books behind my back
Bail money paved into the streets



Bracing for the medicine’s recoil

Sharing a dirty deli sandwich with my friends
Black Jacobins
Underground topography
Or grandmother’s hands

Psychology of the mask now

Teeth of the mask again


Photograph of Tongo Eisen-Martin courtesy of Tongo Eisen-Martin.

Originally from San Francisco, Tongo Eisen-Martin is a poet, movement worker, and educator. His latest curriculum on extrajudicial killing of Black people, We Charge Genocide Again, has been used as an educational and organizing tool throughout the country. His book titled, Someone's Dead Already was nominated for a California Book Award. His latest book Heaven Is All Goodbyes was published by the City Lights Pocket Poets series, was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize and won a California Book Award and an American Book Award. More from this author →