White Bull with Broken Chains1
for John Arthur “Jack” Johnson
When in the business of raising your fist like a colored boy, boxer
from Texas ferried by the savage tide of white, choppy seas—hungry
ghosts, feeding on your claim to citizenship across the Atlantic
you glide. No, you wander. No, you lance. No, you ride the white wave
and trigger. When in the business of raising your fist like a colored boy
whose berry-black lips part and open utter contempt for boxcar
whippings and railroads, divide: don a clean white coat of arms—sightly
horned animal trotting the garden, impunity-white nonthreatening
hide conceals the fetid sore. When in the business of raising your fist
like a colored boy, reaching, Jack Johnson admits the purest bride
Europa and flowering sea, freed. Is it winner-take>-all or blind revelry
for what we are disallowed? Is whiteness the cumulus cloud that arcs
above the cheaper seats? When in the business of raising your fist
like a colored boy, his big black dick, envision the darker workers’
1. This poem is a response to visual artist Ronald William’s art work entitled “White Bull” in which Williams looks at the hyper-sexualized image of heavyweight boxer John Arthur “Jack” Johnson.
My body is ground
memory, Jack. Stay longer. Should the world want
us, dumb and sinewy—be it Cuban bananas or listless apes
at the foothills of power. The ruse used to escape is a wicker
basket, deplorable as a knee —be it flippant like Dianna Ross cursing
airport security. Scoff at the political restraint. Not Ape Shit
like Jay Z or the Knowles bestiary licking the national flag, free
white eggs, domesticity—be it loss of memory, stay longer
pliant container or gauze in the ring, man’s art or penis
impugned—be it interloping, Aborigine. Trans
national body bags. Defense. Should the world want us
performing slow kills—be it rouge, lip sync or fascist
warhead. My body is ground memory, Jack.
Stay longer, nigga—indeterminate, black.
A Cave Canem fellow, Richard Hamilton’s work has appeared in The Ringing Ear: Lean South, Cave Canem Anthologies, and Drunken Boat. He has received fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and Chautauqua Literary Arts Festival in NY. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Alabama and an MA in Arts Politics from New York University. Currently at work on his first full collection of poems, he lives in Baton Rouge, LA.