One of the jobs of a poet is to write about difficult subjects sometimes. Subjects that may shock, transgress. Mental illness. Rape jokes. Menstruation. Lynchings. Abortion. Abandonment. Genocide. Police violence.
As I said in my previous post, and as Emily Dickinson said more than a century ago, my job as a poet is to tell all the truth, but to tell it slant. Tyehimba Jess knows a thing or two about this.
Saint Marty's truth tonight is that he still has a shitload of grading to do.
by: Tyehimba Jess
I say “nigger” a hundred times before breakfast every morning just to keep my teeth white.
–Paul Mooney, Comedian
course, I was skeptical, but because there’s often wisdom in the
hardest humor, I stood before the mirror one sunrise and began my
morning chant. All repeated calmly for the first week, but with flavors
added on as the regimen continued into the second. 50 with er and 50 with a.
1/4 as question, 1/4 as surprise, 1/4 as anger, 1/4 implying the
complaining “please.” All alternately whispered, shouted, laughed,
snarled—all in search of the ideal whitening formula. After four weeks I
remained skeptical. However, perseverance paid off by the sixth, when
colleagues remarked on my brightened, hazeless smile, when friends
alerted me to a steely glint in my grin.
I doubled the
regimen to maximize results. Week eight saw a 2/3 increase in
brightening, with a luminousness approaching diamond quality,
particularly in the lower incisors. The uppers were sun white, never
leaving room in their shine for shadow. Side effects became audible as
well as visual: a small echo became perceptible after each repetition in
my mantra, such that the cadence assumed a wondrous worksong rhythm.
Upon closer examination, magnifying mirrors revealed one (1) small,
brown man peering into the side of each tooth’s mirror-smooth enamel,
each one appearing only briefly before each utterance. Alarmed but
intrigued, I enhanced my treatment. Various gesticulations were added to
the morning litany. Sneers, chuckles, sighs, and facial contortions
were enhanced throughout. As a result, the echo’s intensity increased
from slight windy whisper to low murmur, to small and steady chorus each
morning, a daily affirmation of my will to shine. A halogen glare
burned from my mouth throughout the day. I’ve become a walking
lighthouse of shine—the ritual has grown above and beyond and through
me. I wake each morning to stand before my mirror, and before I open my
mouth I hear the chant begin above and around me, as if I were in the
middle of the mantra’s core, as if I’m one in a circle of prayer. I’ve
found others who hear the chant with me, or they’ve found me, those who
rise up with me each morning to stand before our mirrors with the
diamond-sharp sound of ourselves polishing each tooth until we gleam—our
number grows daily. We shimmer and shine inside the bulging head of our
chant, polishing our glowing mirrors, staring into the glare until we
shield our eyes.