© 2019 Tapestry, Annual TAMUK Women & Gender Studies Journal

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Charles Edward York

Level Black

I was born level red, white and blue
Near cotton fields beneath the sun 
In sight of factories and railroad tracks
Next to cornfields and grains of wheat
The smell of car exhausts and taco vendors
And in hospitals while cameras said
I outta be in lights and pictures!

 

Before I could vote I enlisted
Barely knew who God was
Until I spoke His name in an oath
What was I getting into?
It felt a little weird declaring
Allegiance to a cause so big
All I could see was saying good-bye
Leaving home felt very lonely.

I became a number with others
We became bald headed brothers
Even sisters looked like green us
Learning to march in formation like us
Running, jumping and climbing
Until drill was just a P.T. version of us
And a weapon with digits
With brass metal jackets
Became close friends with us.

We graduated in boots to trucks to planes
Hummers to tanks to choppers to parachutes
Meals ready-to-eat, phone calls and emails
Framed time with our significant others
In convenient slots for sleep and feeling
Something besides uncertainty
And that nagging bug called boredom.

And then the slow descent to Hell began
Doom was howling in the distance
It laughed while we got unpacked
Waiting for us to play the game
Kill or be killed they used to call it
Heavy metal come with me dreams
The boogie man biting at the bit
Hard up for fresh meat FNG's like us.

Devils in the dark and daylight
Got their wish when we arrived on time
Whores who would serve as virgins
For the big bang from behind without lube
Who didn't care if we liked it or not
He was red hot ready for us
And screamed hello in shells at our faces!

I remember day turned into chaos

And z-sounds whizzed past my head

Striking one of my buddies

Hard as a baseball bat that had no shame

A home run on an artery or bones crack

That dude stopped moving

He was breathing just a minute ago.

I ran like hell to not be a repeat

Danger became a broken record of battle

As I charged, its sick sense of humor

Spread smiles and rage porn on faces

All looking at me: WTF?

Murder on their mind gripped my hands

“Your flight is canceled, sucker!”

In battle, Death decides departures.

When I woke up and saw home

A thousand yard stare took over

Quiet was alien to me somehow

And laughter was so damn surreal

TV's, supermarkets and air conditioning

Who dreamed up this crap?

Did I come from here to die over there?

On what level does this make sense?

Guilt demanded a bottle for me
“I could drink or pop in happy colors,”
Doctor Everything Will Be Alright said
God willing it'll make the pain go away
Instead, I stayed awake from sleeping
Because in darkness the boogie man was there
Waiting to steal what's left of my sanity.

I watched the roof tops for snipers
And doorways for trip wires
People arguing over silly things
Have no idea what a good day was
Suddenly, suicide seemed painless
In war, if you get to the end of a day
It's just a sign you might see tomorrow.

Innocence is the first to go in war, then
Anything you saw before, ate before
Screwed before was just a fantasy
Reality wants nothing of this so

Something more sinister and ugly comes

With blood, screams and shouting

“Request fire mission on this position

Now, GODDAMN IT! OVER!!!”

 

Strangely enough I awoke on a street at night

Before the Sun dared show itself

An angel in red, white and blue light

Loaded me inside, smiling

Did I lose something, I wondered

Why is the sky so dark now?

Somebody please tell me

How did I undo so many layers

Only to be alone on Level Black?

 

Burden of the Black Man

Brought in bonds to foreign shores,

The pride of Africa was enslaved

Unjustly for white man's work,

The burden of the black man

Priced at three fifths,

Sold as property bearing

Values less than human.

 

The beat down of suffering

Does not dignify bigotry

Anymore than the whip,

The noose or the brass jacket

Inspires civil obedience

Slavery is a yoke

Fitted in many forms for denial.

 

The song in the field

And the rap from the hood

Do not sound off

Merely as solos of suffering.

In the houses of God

The cries of the heart

Reach up to Heaven for justice!

Politicians profess lies as truth

The poetry of the black man

Recites the literature of conscience!

A downcast soul for ages,

He rises from captivity,

Sweating three times more

Just to achieve equality!

 

Liberty is more than an idea
It is existence and action allowed
Its full and equal measure
Opposes and exposes
The bane of an open field
Forbidding things to grow
In the land of tyranny!

When no one is allowed
Atmosphere to rise above
The gravity of getting gun downed
Lowers the legacy of a life of liberty.
The burden of the black man
Carries the conscience of freedom denied


And complete equality unpaid.

 

Beautiful

It happens
The air celebrates you
Whenever you appear
Your soul 
Redefines space
Perfume awakening the silence
The music of discovery
Applauds your arrival
Your heartbeat
Begs my breath to pause
Reel in my broken rhythm
And revel in your motion
Your eyes
Open an unexpected paradise
Unveiling uncommon kindness
You unleash on me
Front row audience
Manifested imagination
A living work of art

It happens
You compel me
With limitless gaze
To abandon all views lesser
See through

The alluring double universe of your eyes

Hold everything

In precious gravity

Cherish more and marvel

Your luscious, lyrical lines

Soften my selfish edges

By stepping outside the boundaries to share

I inhale

The aroma outside my own aura

Your luminous atmosphere

Decorates my grateful senses

With you, I surf in generous, oceanic joy

It happens
Beauty blossoms beyond you
Your spoken blush of quiet petals
Tender, thoughtful and touching
Radiate your sweet regard on everything
Life once meaningless and without expression
Ripples and expands around me
In you, shameful soil
Turns into sensuous landscape
Amorous pilgrim feasts on a delectable world
I savor the nectar of your soul
Pouring out to quench others
Revealing real beauty 
This is the true, sweet flavor
My heart shapes lips to kiss:
You are everything to me beautiful.

 

Write Your Verse Out Loud

 

When defeat beats the crap out of you 
Over and over again, 
You avoid any pretense
And nonsense about meaning
You say what you really mean.
You abandon the futility of insanity, 
Of pain without reason
And let the bandages fall 
So blood can write the hurt away. 
You stop white washing reality 
And bear your soul 
Naked and not ashamed.

When poverty doubles down on you
Taste becomes a lost luxury
Only the wealthy can afford.
Bitterness and fatigue
Overwhelm the will of tired feet
And hands so heavy wear out from use.
Sacrifices speak of delays
Satisfaction put aside to pursue
And emptiness ensues without end.
Suddenly silence becomes
A sanctuary and an oasis
Where letting go sets you free.

When you stop giving a damn about it

Approval and conformity

Lose their appeal in favor of solitude.

Owning personal authority

Relieves the tensions outsiders

Bring with false boundaries and words.

You begin to see reality is

A recipe you make your way

And the universe awaits your prose.

Your life pens your own story

Free of quiet regret and apology

So write your verse out loud.