Propter Nos is the yearly journal from True Leap Press. It’s a smartly critical read with an eye toward beauty and a better world, and Volume 2—published October 2017 and excerpted here—circles around the idea of political and emotional exhaustion from a resolutely anti-racist, anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchal, and anti-nationalist perspective. True Leap is currently working on their third issue and providing free copies to incarcerated readers; learn more at trueleappress.com
it’s a honey moon
tonight, they say:
when lovers learn
to take leave.
(a rose moon
sweet, wet, full.
earth’s blood mirrored
there in her gleaming)
last night there were six gunshots
outside our bar
& tonight they don’t know
if we hear fire works
or loud play
that will kill our children.
I don’t know what to do
about babies in the street
so I lay my crystals in the
moonlight to be bathed.
I would rather
feel witchy: see
hard earth as clean.
baby a black cat
has a wet rose tongue
too. or did you think
a tense superstition
could roll over
& lay its soft belly
bare for yr light?
for Rekia Boyd & all who loved her
the afternoon your best friend’s
was acquitted of all charges
I was sitting in f******* Starbucks watching
20 or so black boys from the high school
running down State St. w/ the new
exhilaration of a bird gone to flight even at
the price of a fight or a weapon. I froze
& stood feeling the fear break the window as
the cops were called & the white man sat
outside, smirking & sipping on his iced Venti
Whatever chatting w/ the undercover
white cop in her gleaming black car
the boys dispersed, & no one was shot
though I was crying in the bathroom at this
I was wearing thick white & thin lilac,
quartz & rosewood on my wrist
it had felt like a time
you said you loved
seeing yogis squirm
to keep up, their bodies
nearly breaking. I thought
it is easy to love the wrenching or
the obviously tragic it is harder
to love the uncertain the look on
a face when it is deciding whether
to freeze or run or die or kill. it is
harder to love the ambiguity of
forgiveness. your never knowing
if you had to or were right to
& what will come of it
the judge said,
the law said,
it was not reckless manslaughter
but “beyond reckless”
so he could not continue
this is a place for reasoned
decisions & her brother
I was wondering how
on this planet
if it will always revolve around
such a pompous & burning
form of light but it is not as if
we didn’t choose
to be here
shouting at the detail
wailing in ambiguous light
What do I see?
Who the hell am I?
I look in my mirror and wish the person I see could become clearer,
But not even my contacts can fix that.
I fear that maybe I am out of touch myself,
And until I figure out who I am, no one can touch me.
No one will leave trails for me to find.
When I look in my mirror.
No one will part my legs like the sea and make a home out of me,
Because I have not yet built a home for myself.
I don’t like the thought of telling you that I belong to you.
Why does the thought of me being property entice you?
Who do you see?
Who the hell am I to you?
Your eyes swell with greed and desire.
You are not the man I need.
You are someone else.
Stop trying to make your home in me,
Because you know that you wouldn’t even welcome yourself inside.
“My Ode to the Spicy Lollipop”
This is how my lollipop tastes: It has chile, four layers, and there is gum inside. The gum is really blistering. I can already feel my tongue on fire. I hear the firefighters. It is round and hot like the sun. I cherish my gum so much that I think I just broke my tooth. It hurts so much. It’s too spicy. It tastes so good and delicious and healthy and hard, but still so good. The wrapper is red and has a face of the spicy lollipop with sunglasses.
My Chicago be grid-mapped
Superman up high spot train car lines
Like speeding bullet through cityscape
Ahhh, What a sweet escape
Fall asleep on one side blue/red
Wake up black/white
Always knew red line split city black/white
Never took issue with this until nightfall
Better be on your side by nightfall
But nevermind that
When you are a poet and a bird hits the window at your grandma’s house you feel like you need to say something about it/you need to mean something about it/you need to know something about it. What I know is what I saw: the feather drifting down in a serene spiral after what I heard: the bang against the glass and the shriek from my sister’s mouth. My dad and grandma went over to the window and watched the life drift out of the struggling bird. After my dad and the caregiver returned from the backyard with a lifeless plastic bag, my grandma said, shouldn’t we say a prayer for it or something? I said we could say the mourner’s Kaddish but I don’t remember the words. She doesn’t remember a lot of things, but she remembers my name, lets it ring into the hall in surprise when we enter the house. There is no grand metaphor about the bird or my grandmother or life and death. What I know is just what I saw. It died and there was nothing we could do.
I got so used to a closet without a light
That now the landlord’s fixed it
I have forgotten it is there, still digging around for my underwear in the dark.
Every time I remember and pull the chain
it’s like god creating the world again,
and it is good.
You likened our relationship
to a math problem. You say
we are solving it. It’s been a long time
since calculus, since I folded numbers
into boats and eased them into a stream
and watched them come back. In Paris
there is a fountain where they do this,
send off their toy vessels, wobbly fish in a
tiny harbor. I want that afternoon back,
my father and I in the half-hot Europe sun
watching the young boys crowd around
and beckon their earless boats.
Everybody left with what they’d brought.