Volume 33, Number 1

Dealer DNA

All hail a blind half-breed queen/As she descends into an NYPD den/ recognized gun range for a Covid vaccine./ It’s almost too haywire for white horror/ too insensitive to intervene in poetry/ uncle young enough to be brother/ the only other family member/ everyone remembers is mixed/ joking “don’t tell them I got a shot/tell them I got shot.”

Years since grandpa shoots Nana and Daddy/  the Post spewed some Scarlett O’Hara shit/ calling grandfather Nana’s ex-beau and erasing a year off my age/ as if that wall of weeks with them hadn’t just become wonderfully important./ At least the New York Times sorted it into a September sequence/ of belligerent Bronx scenes stemming from domestic disputes./ But both tell it through their chests and groins/ I grew up with the grace that he got them in the heads/ momentary heady anhedonia/ instead of heathen’s pain/ 20-year-old rum body/ curled around NYT tidbits/ as more primary source than her/ hands on chest/ knees covering groin crying out “must’ve been so painful”/ Always been asked what brought Ma from dealer babydaddy to/ a do-the-crime-pay-the-time detective husband/ girl on mother’s bed makes marbles of bullets/ not yet naive enough to hope her misuse could make them fit for benign lives./ Mother yells at an aforementioned man for leaving them out/ could be a leftover from either life.

Privilege is checked by maskless retired officers claiming their vaccines/ calling the city supplying them a shithole/ stepfather who sees polite rejection of excess banana chocolate bread he didn’t bake/ from his unwashed hands/ as defensive next-day discussion worthy/ stops uncle and I from honoring/ the ancestral fear of dirty needles/ in dirtier hands/ passed on like a liturgy/ between those who look like me/ with the countercaution that we should be grateful/ getting his retired NYPD favorability. I wonder how much better the Panthers would’ve done  distribution in communities of color/ inner comedienne whispers to uncle/ this would be a perfect time for Black Panther bombing.

This is dealer DNA! Disability rights activists agitating with Black PanthersDNA/ didn’t propel me from this place/ put cold and forebodingly heavy marble beneath my heels../ I don’t know/ if my sighted alter ego/ would make all her shots merciful misfires/ just to avoid injuring Rodman’s Neck/ this gunpowder-packed land sharing lore/ with the body’s most industrious envoy between memory and breath/ or if she’d trail her trigger finger through/ the traumas of City Island citizens/ who believe being built to the sounds of this place/ powers up their extra patriotic security.

Hours later/ art exhibit on Native feminism’s / “Heavy Heels” has moccasins suede slouched over heavy marble/ I think about the marble’s coolness against a neck/ suede surrendering just enough to make the heel seem penetrable/ marble too thick to feel vulnerability underneath/ but it stands abiotic as art/ I know Daddy was the first to sit me down/ situate me in slavery/ but I wasn’t old enough to ask why we write the literature and they write the lynchings.

—Danielle Cowan