My stomach is parched from having just peed into the muddled ground.
And it hurts from having nothing to eat,
no ring pops, no soda,
no sunflower seeds.
It’s an empty hole,
a cosmic hole—
it could collapse now into itself and be simply
It could fall over onto my pelvic bone and be a
doormat. Or it could just be a pancake,
and I could eat it.
But, I listen—
But, through it all, I listen—
But, even though my stomach is on that intestinal precipice
between pancake-hood and non-pancake-hood,
I turn my red ear to the sky, and him, and listen—
For when Frederick Douglass speaks, I listen,
because his beard glistens in the wind.
On the spangled, glorious podium, he tries to fasten
his buttons and his glasses—against the wind.
His fingers fumble with the clasps.
He is moored to the stand by his fretted fingers grasp.
His white breath shoots out his lips in pillars of artillery ghosts.
His words crack.
“What to the slave is the Fourth of July?
Popping, vapid apple pies.
What to me is your history?
Empty internment, depravity.
What to you people am I?
Nothing. You wish I would die.
Lies bloat your belly and stretch your skin—
I am alive!
Sin-swallowing reddens your rank urine—
I am alive!
Oh, America, I am America. Who are you?
I am freedom and equality; I am freedom! Who are
You? I am the pure Missouri; I am
what you once were and what you wish to be!
Your shackles could never hold me down!
I have risen from your filth and brown streams—
Oh, you who are bound!
You are not free, America—oh, no;
America, not until all have equality!”
My eyes are gasped red from quick or no sleep.
His eyes are white! Such visceral speech! So miserable
in my whispers is he,
huge haired he, gray afroed he;
he says equal is all we ask for—
“Frederick, please!” shouts a man from the crowd,
Screams another, “where’s the police?!”
But, “brothers, no need” comes
from the faint pigeonhole in his old beard,
round like his head, like his hair, like his belly,
packed with teeth like the podium’s cornered
blue, and the dark, waving flag far beyond.
My stomach is a mud puddle, full of love,
for Frederick Douglass, his hair, and his turtle dove,
which rises from his hip, and hops from his girdle
onto the stage.
It raises its leg—
a wet primrose rainbow.
Its slight white falls down the rainbow and spills over
into a heap.
Frederick Douglass remains my only fondness,
but he bellows “goodbye!”, then is off
the sky, down the stairs, gone with the wind
that whistling promise.
His black coat tail still in it.
His gray hair not.
His strained earth bobbing,
sad-meandering on it. Onward, I say, onward
to the spangled sky. Onward, onward…
My head flies around the pavement and the stage
and the sky like a flitting electron, like a flitting finch,
like a raindrop on a trampoline, bounding, bouncing, banging my ears
against the star-spangled silence.
And I am “Constellate!” beside that forsaken stage banner, and then,
“Come back!” to the whites who fled in rage.
The patter of my words
against the blurred sky
of gone men.
I sit down on the pavement and play with my frown.
When Frederick Douglass spoke, I had listened,
because his mission was true,
and it really had glistened.
But now I sit here, soft,
and say goodbye.
My stomach, I know—I really do—is not Frederick Douglass.
And my stomach, I feel, is hard and empty and hurting.
And my, my stomach, I feel, is parched and dry and
panting, I don’t want to see him leave,
I want to see him and see his translucent pee! Oh,
——sunshine plays all around me,
and laughs right from me,
yellow Frederick, yellow Frederick, yellow Douglass;
dancing lemon, dancing down,
down to the waves
and to the dark graves of our