Poetry No. 32 – henry 7. reneau, jr.


for Sandra Annette Bland

(Malum prohibitum) Wrong only because the law prohibits it,
————————not because it is morally wrong. (Malum in se)

The calm nurture of a Black mother’s wrath, a hollow that sorrows
an endless mouth, a daughter’s dead star

still burning in her eyes. Because the Law said:  failed to signal
a lane change. The difference this time

was that we had the proof, a viral unmasking of porcine predator &
prey. The look in her eyes said she wasn’t long for this world.

Her mugshot mouth of suicide voice, the drool collapse & bitter of.
Her too much of nothing too valuable to lose,

but the D.A.
can use a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, can disparage

the truth, carefully exalting each & every prejudice,
to sanctify as righteous

the assassination of her character. Like Trayvon Martin
deemed Kong in a hoodie while Black, or Mike Brown

made a convenience store thief in death:  In his pocket—-
———————————————————were two lighters,

———————————————————two $5 bills & a bag of
——————————————————–what appeared to be marijuana,
——————————————————–the investigator said.

————————————————————————-He had gunshot wounds
————————————————————————-in the head, chest
————————————————————————-& right arm.

But you are not who they believe you are. You’ve had
much harder times than sittin’ in jail for three days.

You’ve always known, what makes them comfortable
kills every conjugation of Nigger (i.e. thug, demon, criminal)

every Black affinity for disobedience. You’ve always known,
you can stand there, surrender to the cop, & still be killed.

But she does not fear what they think she fears:

Like Jesus,
she was raised in a blended family.

Like Jesus,
she was brutally arrested.

Just like Jesus,
she died in the custody of Authority.

——————————————————————-We lock behind doors
——————————————————————-what we don’t value

——————————————————————-as much as what we do value. And yet,
——————————————————————-if we redefine value

——————————————————————-we find that it all comes down to
——————————————————————-whose eyes are assessing the worth.

Any attempt to survive means every Black body for itself, the way
we do something by doing nothing, a small animal’s scream, like silence:


———————————————————————vibrating against the din of metal,
———————————————————-& the call & response chant of umbrage,
beating plastic battalion buckets of dissent
to police-state blocked streets.

Are you thinking about killing yourself today?


April 29, 1992

A tribe of hammers
can speak the language of riot
in the shadow dialect of umbrage (equal to
four hundred plus years
of not trust a word come out they mouth)
the banging battalion of beaten plastic buckets,
the fevered pitch of thermometer
surrounded by bitten tongue to
spite the face

The seams fraying &
the bits of cotton started to burst through
like one bad-one
away from the worst

Because ruin can happen as slowly as
awaiting the last days, when God
will pour out
his seven bowls of wrath, or
the carrion ravage of flies
on a bag of shit in the summer heat

Graffitied on the walls
of the looted &
burning storefronts
was the warning :  Pretend it isn’t real &
hopefully, it won’t happen to you


henry 7. reneau, jr. writes words of conflagration to awaken the world ablaze, an inferno of free verse illuminated by his affinity for disobedience, like a chambered bullet that commits a felony every day, an immolation that blazes from his heart, phoenix-fluxed red & gold, exploding through change is gonna come to implement the fire next time. He is the author of the poetry collection, freedomland blues (Transcendent Zero Press) and the e-chapbook, physiography of the fittest (Kind of a Hurricane Press), now available from their respective publishers. Additionally, he has self-published a chapbook entitled 13hirteen Levels of Resistance, and his collection, The Book Of Blue(s): Tryin’ To Make A Dollar Outta’ Fifteen Cents, was a finalist for the 2018 Digging Press Chapbook Series. His work has also been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

© henry 7. reneau, jr.

Photo Credit: © Victor Tongdee / Adobe Stock