The n-word and Me

This is not preferred poetics, or sterling
scholarship, ‘unpacked.’ This is not expert
testimony, vetted, apologetic and antipoetic—
and I don’t need my Yoga teacher to tell
Me, “You feel a queasiness in your gut, a
Tightness in your chest…” No. I do not.

I am not speaking for you, your friends, co-
workers, comrades, lovers, or your momma.
I only speak for me, and my Mother—who
Checked that word at the door, like razors
and guns.

I speak only for the two of us when I say the n-
word’s a serial crime scene strung out on
yellow tape—Black bodies buried under
Wall Street, and African bones paving the
Atlantic; it’s an accessory to kidnap,
Identity theft of Ashanti, Fanti, Fulani,
Yoruba, Ibo, Mandingo, Wolof…

I speak only for the two of us when I say the n-
word’s a moniker for murder, forced-labor,
Wage-theft, torture, rape, assault, paddy-roller
slave-patroller madness; shorthand for red-
lining; police department patois; score for
conductors, batons calibrated forte—
hearts filled with venom, belts weighted
with other instruments of torture and death

I speak only for the two of us when I say the n-
word’s a cortisol-curdling Katrina; Sandy
Slamming my heart shut, shutting down thought.
It’s a body blow, sonic stressor from mouths of
Friends sharing unnecessary stories, or pointing
poems in the cannon…

I speak only for the two of us when I say the n-
word’s a sledgehammer busting my boulders of agape;
Fire hose pumping my quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes
lats, calves, biceps, triceps full of glucose. It’s a war-
cry suggesting flight-or-fight—
And I imagine occasional kikes, krauts, hymies, jewsows, lamp shades,
sheisters, snow flakes, chinks, gooks, goombahs, grease-balls, greasers,
wops, dagos, paddys, micks, spicks, rag-heads, towel-heads, camel jockeys,
nips, japs, buddah-heads, wetbacks, beaners, taco-heads, pakis, hajis,
honkies, haoles, crackers, ofays, peckerwoods, hicks, shixsas, rebs,
rednecks, whiteys, white trashes, trailer trashes, gringos, good ol’ boys,

Former forklift driver/warehouse worker/janitor, Raymond Nat Turner is a NYC poet; BAR's Poet-in-Residence; and founder/co-leader of the jazz-poetry ensemble UpSurge!NYC. Read other articles by Raymond Nat, or visit Raymond Nat's website.