a poem to the black man who called me an arab and told me not to bomb the train like we did in boston

thank you for your honesty
the way it spilled out of your lips more potent than the stench of vodka in your breath
it has been years since someone has had the bravery to look at me in the face
and tell me what they are actually thinking

you see
i just came from a dance party
what i mean to say is that i started shaving every night before i went to the club
so white men would look at me and translate the contours of my face into english
and hope that brown found a synonym for beautiful somewhere in the creases around my hazel eyes
‘cause hazel is brown standing at the corner of a bar smiling with all his teeth
hazel is brown being asked to dance

i shaved
so i could look at myself in the mirror and not be afraid:
the way i will button up my shirt all the way in the cab to the airport
the way i will ask the white security guards to pat me down, save them
the awkward glance,
the excuse me sir,
the travesty of two dancers fumbling through a routine that has
been choreographed for years –
hold your hand steady — 
i promise you will know how to hold me still,
like the way your finger knows how to pull the trigger when are running

the entire flight will stare at me as i walk down the aisle as if i am marching to my own death

i am used to this –
the resounding silence of an entire cabin moving
but
going
nowhere

the truth is
had it been another night
i would have tried my best to ignore you, too

i have read books about you and your struggle and i have used words
like color and race to pretend that i am a part of it
but that does mean that i would not have felt my pulse tango with the sweat on my back when you looked at me
wondered why your hands were in your pockets
hoped that you would not jump me like the mug shots on the television screens
like the rappers on the radio:
your black designed to kill my queer
the scripts have already been written
hope that you forget your lines
tonight

brother:
i am sitting on the train home refusing to cry
because it is so quiet that i can hear my own heart beating and it sounds like a bomb and i wonder if you were right:

that the terrorist got inside of me:
told me i was beautiful at a bar
snuck inside that crease of my eye
while i was watching the news
dressed up in a tux
and called himself president and tortured people whose faces looked just like mine –
but i couldn’t hear their screams
because we drowned them out with our applause –
i pledge allegiance is a standing ovation for the biggest charade
and we have all been fooled

the terrorist
tip-toed in through my ear while i was listening to the speech
called himself safety as he sent drones across the ocean – they say that the Sirens’ song is so beautiful that we do not hear the crash until we can taste our own blood from our wilting lips and recognize that we are not being kissed

and it wasn’t long before he took out the knife
and disguised the pain as patriotism
and took control of my body – steered me to a neighborhood far away from yours and taught us how to hate one another:
democracy is another way of saying
divide and conquer slowly

and i didn’t even notice until tonight:
the way we are running around using our tongues as whips
mistaking our puppet strings as spines
too busy fighting one another to recognize that we are being used

brother:
i have written you a poem and i suppose it works something like a bomb,
i have strapped it to my chest like a bulletproof vest
so maybe you are right:
let it tear you apart
let it make you remember your blood
let it force you to see me from a distance
listen to the crash
how it sometimes sounds like honesty:
that the true terrorists are sitting in boardrooms sipping champagne in suits,
and sometimes their skin seduces us to think that that they are saints, and sometimes we believe them

but maybe we don’t have to:
maybe we can cut off the puppet strings
use them as ropes to tie ourselves together
in struggle, in justice
and fight back with all of our love
and fight back with all of our love

and they will think that our hugs are hand grenades
and they will mistake our revolution as terrorism
but we will keep writing, and singing, and dancing and sometimes we will be drunk and sometimes we will be lonely and sometimes we will cry on trains and planes but we will keep going,
like our ancestors before us

brother i have written you a poem
and i suppose it works something like a dove taking flight from my throat —
let me help you remember what they refuse to let us see:

we are not the terrorists,
it is them.

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