Catapult | Poetry

Corrective State

The people behind bars are captives of war /
The people stolen into camps and cages /
speak it plain

Catapult magazine · Listen to Mahogany L. Browne read this poem

San Quentin ain’t got a skyline to dream about
But my uncle’s pride in my ability to recover from
An ankle twist on a slab of broken concrete
make it seem so

They say I play pick-up games
like I’ve been to the pen
I smirk, a double dribble skipping
across my mistaken face

Twenty years later
a solar system rids of a planet,
makes itself a new moon
to rock the tides
still the barb wired and shot guns work like clock
clicks and my father still
doesn’t know how many times
I’ve challenged death

The Covid-19 that spread across my chest
My breathing so close to an island submerged
In fluid // I stuttered awake on the 11th night
I wept until the cold medicine carried me back to sleep
The sickness lie // a boundary less wretch
It was the most American thing I’ve ever felt

Secure in my home and still dying from the heat
of capitalism

They are reopening the world after the planet
Tried to reset itself

And the prisons are still packed with people
afraid to believe in redemption
Racist adjacent smiles forgive white collar crimes
as hedge funds funnel into
protective custody / a static of dispatch
the walls clean with other men’s teeth

Antibody test smell like Henrietta Lacks coming
back to remind us of what happens
when you trust a house of poachers

And they call us ungovernable

The way we picket and protest
this mourning / a reminder
Steel bars don’t melt with silence

The people behind bars are captives of war
The people behind bars are captives of war
The people stolen into camps and cages 
speak it plain 
I want to go home
I want to hold my daughter
I want to see my mother, one last time

There ain’t no poem in that

The human form was not meant to be locked up
locked down / cage bound // consider your own
bones /// the way it lengthens as soon as you turn
your face to the sun /// a mask over your nose //
relinquish itself to this adaptation of love /// and inhale
the day // crisp in its welcome

send a kite to Folsom
as we correct our form