Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Excerpt from Blood on the Fog, Tongo Eisen-Martin



I Make Promises Before I Dream


No unclaimed, cremated mothers this year


Nor collateral white skin


No mothers folding clothes to a corporate park preamble

No sons singing under the bright lights of a lumber yard


Quantum reaganomics and the tap steps of turning on a friend


New York trophy parts among

the limbs of decent people

Being an enraged artist is like

entering a room and not knowing what to get high off of


My formative symbols/My upbringing flying to an agent’s ears

I might as well be an activist


Called my girlfriend and described

All the bottles segregationists had thrown at me that day


Described recent blues sites and soothing prosecutions

I feared for my poetry


You have to make art every once in a while

            While in the company of sell-outs

            Accountant books in deified bulk

            Or while waiting for a girl under a modern chandelier


Or in your last lobby as a wanderer


The prison foot races the museum


My instrument ends


I mean, what is a calendar to the slave?

Also, what is a crystal prism?


“He bought this bullet,

bought its flight,

then bought two more”


The Cycle of Black Mercy


Well I have at least fallen around love

Reading poems next to my friend with Loisaida fire escapes in their teeth

Talking about the gun I’m going to bring to the segregation

Trying to protect children with poems/protect these store-runs

Avenue nights as a hospital bard

I can’t make out the system of craft

Is this run the house dust circuit/are these abandoned houses of various rank

art here like karma-less soldiering


Falsifying my first solo on this stage/ on this rickety enemy-ness

Ladies and Gentlemen, here to make some warmongering of your night

these receipt paper poems

Adorning my red eyes with a self-inflicted fatherhood

Over-policed eyes

state impressionism bouncing back and forth between skin and ski mask

an emotional range or wobbly self-portrait

amongst these church giants

calcified personas present /grown man depression

scraping cotton against uptown silhouettes/see in their shadows all manner of bombs

king of the poems, baby

genuine marvel of the history of poems

welcome to the mild bourgeoise

revolution street fairs/our weariness

well-proven socialism/ the death of both your and my hip-hop, Lord

make your green back ruling class confetti/art somewhere in this

earn stripes with three hands/cut God off of your shirt

look out at the world from the inside of an ink stroke

I don’t mind the Mississippi steel, sir, but may I have a saxophone from a different city

bright lights/lethal injection routine/last words/Is My Family Here

take all disrespect as the universe in motion

I write poems today

I kill america today



five-year anniversary of my style

(swamps talking/ midsize activist files like songs sitting under the street/

Slave castles growing and growing/

keeping notebooks alive the wrong way/

human temper sitting still)


going to Afrika in mysterious ways

the harp that turned the hand toward the Founding of Chicago


you know what my trick is, grandson?

I am weak first

Before anything, I first become weak


Kick a hatchet down the street/ then all around a city

a grandmother’s Milwaukee

or the gods my grandmother robbed

fresh faces in the spirit house/ a spirit house we’ve put behind the sun


We have God’s permission to make a plan


Gradually, the poem becomes decently empty


You know, be weak

Let the ability to write slip

until only one fingertip is left on the handle

then, in a flash, return with a slave castle in a cup of change


“Lady’s and gentlemen:

We assure you that tonight’s entertainment is not judging you…We paid them…really well”

Free Fear


The boss belongs to the masses now

Got the boss’ likeness on a string like a love poem

Wild stride speeches replace memories of the boss

We got machine guns in the communist bar tonight

We are naturals in the communist bar

Our boundaries are just a little death


We stand outside the gates of San Francisco

listening to some good preaching


“Congratulations, your mercenaries hurt.

Your Money Jungle hurts. Your mouths hurt.”


“Merchants of frenetic white flight

Luckless and (therefore) well-armed primitivism

Reaching down into the patterns of your soul

Making for funny stories”


“I hope they didn’t name any schools

While they had those kids in those cages”


Joy returns to decent revolutionaries

Puts a hermitage in the fascism 


Saint Faluja thumping, your shoulder is family

                      and needed

God crawling in between the bullet heat

Yes, our grandparents’ God


Thought experiments in the last words of Black organizers

Let’s make a periodical of their last words, Lord

Of the remaining addresses of Black power


We become Angola on both sides/A humor of axes.

A foot race through public property/remilitarized

Pork improved/Celestial pork

Platinum minted pork/choose your words carefully pork


“the first mirror was clay…the first human was not”


Humanity recommencing near the weight pile

(would be nice to sound universal)

not heroin owed

heroin passing messages

heroin left laying around an empire


A colonized intellectual as a guest

in their own hand


It’s like a life’s work depends

On replicating Birmingham caravans

Or particulate Birmingham


One to five shells flying at the state capital

Signed, “Thank you for the resources”



big band scatting up the throat of a surrogate fascist

in love with their one eye ball

at the parade with tuxedo-colored guns

marrying the cowardice


A re-running white politician

Is born in a Black neighborhood (taken as a stage of history)

Born of a Black Messiah (taken as a foco-biography)

Is born Black (journey’d)

Legislates in some dimension fused to the side of loud steps


copper summer riots, but still some blood involved

                                                  still some necessary slums involved

rag tag armies masked in western height/ in primary emotions

Delight of cocaine both warped and not warped enough/images can be cousins

What happens when you step outside the country’s sugar gorging?

What good are you all to the world sitting in Heaven?

Who are we going to lay out books for?

Who’s going to touch the knives at night and sing to the gaps in between shadows…gaps between our love?

Who is going to teach our knives to sing Tobacco Road

Teach them that they are family


Picture a Black socialist in a perfected boneyard

 in a tributary boneyard

 whispering to cheek bones

dimming the wind

A Black socialist who will live for one hundred years in this graveyard to make this point/that we’re in too much pain for naming ceremonies... that ancestors need to inflict on the world our continuity...


A thousand good deeds decorate the 20-year police precinct janitor

A janitor (who called it)…who knee-slides, but not like you

Telling you of a half-dead humanism to pass the time


A math teacher and their little red book

“I used to dream of revolution… and even enjoy the dream”

Tongo Eisen-Martin is the Poet Laureate of San Francisco, California. He is the author of Heaven Is All Goodbyes (City Lights Books, 2017), which was shortlisted for the Griffin International Poetry Prize, received the California Book Award for Poetry, an American Book Award, and a PEN Oakland Book Award. He is also the author of someone's dead already (Bootstrap Press, 2015). Blood on the Fog is his new collection of poems.

No comments:

Post a Comment