Two Poems


I come from the kidnapped,

the assaulted--

my country tis of reparations as in-store credit

backordered to bankruptcy

It is me & my trophy wife

passing as a dream of some kind

All I want is 40 dead mules

& an acre of land w/ a lighthouse

right above the porch

of the great Atlantic ocean

just in case any of my ancestors tasted nasty & made it.

I come from a people who pay a penalty every sunrise

& divinate to paroled gods with rancid hog maws.

The stripes plowed into my grandfather's back

will have to stand in for our family album.

Somebody threw some stars at my grand-momma's head

& said ‘betcha won't ask for freedom no mo'!

Natives in prison issue war bonnets tell me:

I come from a poisoned land that recycles children

into artillery shells

& where dark skin is good as

an invisibility cloak

until the police arrive.

I am proud to be a ___________

where I can hold my head up and drown

in the downpour of state sanctioned cancer.

I am proud to hold my place

in back of the line.

I come from a land that's open all night

like a shotgun wound.

& as for yawl tired,

yawl poor

yawl huddled masses

yearning to breathe free

Fuck yawl!

I come from a place promising

a burning cross in every yard

& two meth labs in every garage

& when I say: meth lab, I mean golden

retrievers smoking crank.

The country I come from

I can flash all its gang signs

& beatbox all their anthems.

I come from a place—

actually, I don't know where I come from

I just know I woke up here.

My babies were gone

my house was on fire

& I couldn't breathe.


(After artist Mary Sibane)

Her Majesty Queen Sophie

ordained beneath a halo of empyreal elements

Created herself from herself

Every particle          hair thread in phototropic dance

Her aura of elemental beads and bracelets

feathered, lured, baited with lavender

Right eye sun Left eye moon Third eye Horus

Attuned Atoned A crystal microphone

A golden triangle, sacred and immortal

Her rainforest of locks powerlines transmitting spirit

Gospel mouth seeding black puddling earth

With fertile ululations

                                Her first praise song

A rain-bowing sail unfolding midair

colors from her throat ripening

into their own weight and logic.

Her Majesty Queen Sophie

did not bother with Adam or Eve

instead roasted a root ball

that opened, steaming, into family,

the poured foundation to a pyramid of divinity.

Her Majesty Queen Sophie

had a premonition --

She saw a fatally wounded country

headless, hemorrhaging multitudes

chained for sale, cutting swaths thru

the desert,

a collapsing landscape trembling with greed.

She saw the silky fabric of the ocean

fevered, jellied with blood

chanting unfinished prayers

in its foaming mouth.

She saw shamen toss a murmuration of sankofa birds

towards a chalkboard sky

becoming notes on sheets of sacred vapor only she could read.

She saw a flotilla of vessels like wedding cakes

bloated with spectral bridegrooms

as death offered its ceremonial benediction

before jumping its own broom

Her Majesty Queen Sophie screamed livid about the future

She saw land more valued than the orphaned people on it

She wept: There's no appropriate trade for any dead

Then watched ships stumble drunk thru the fog

towards a land of fevered infants screaming

in black bassinets behind a crib-wall of bones

She stepped forward after them

as planets went retrograde, bowing like soldiers

Crossing the threshold of the ocean,

She spread her apron beneath an armada of ships

shedding its dead weight of shadows

In ribbons of crimson bubbles.

Imagine a school of volcanic sparks

too hot to evaporate in the gelatinous

atmosphere of the Atlantic

Come elements!  Come assemble!

Let this day turn on divine behavior, she says

waving her purse seiner apron

beneath spirits shaking off their debt to life--

bodies falling in spent casings

She flung them up into the blue black canopy of space

Elevated spirits crocheted into the digital graph of eternity.

A convoy of the disappeared assumed into a corona of stars

This a version of corrective rapture

        rapture with purpose

at history's altar

Ending in hovering drones of kente print kofi's as an asteroid field

Each a heart, a hearth, an ancestral campfire

left burning on the porch

to guide kinfolks home.

James Cagney is a published poet and writer from Oakland, CA. He has appeared as a featured poet at venues in Sacramento, San Francisco, Vancouver, and Mumbai. His first book, Black Steel Magnolias in The Hour of Chaos Theory is available now from For more of Cagney's work, visit his blog at

Barzakh Mag