November 2, 2016

Brionne Janae

AS YOU RECALL THE END OF THEIR MARRIAGE

he descends. a box, with the old blues records
that taught you to say nigga like you knew what it meant,
heavy in his hands. he has just retrieved some final knick knack

reading glasses or car keys he almost left
behind. for sure it’s dark in that house
that was always too large for safety.

only the television and the small lamp
at the end table light the room.
probably a Bulls’ game on

Michael Jordan moving cross the court
like he still has something to prove or maybe O.J.
on trial. you cannot remember the details,

of whoever’s face it was that the camera caught,
or even the peculiarities in your grandfather’s expression.
you are young then. and though no one has told you

he is leaving for good you wish he would stay
a little longer. how your gaze lingers on the swagger
of his back walking out into the foyer,

the shutter of the door as he exits—
you know better now,
and learn to recall, most clearly, the fists

in your grandmother’s lap, the tightness of her jaw
as he bent down to kiss her where she sat
breathing like a gazelle run down.

you are still afraid once he leaves
how could you know then
he took with him the busted shadow
that lurked so long in darkness here.

from Rattle #53, Fall 2016
Tribute to Adjuncts

__________

Brionne Janae: “This is my first year teaching, and I think it’s going as well as can be hoped for. I had heard before I began teaching that the first year is the hardest, so I’ve tried to manage my expectations. I teach at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, Massachusetts, and at this point I’m down to only a poem a month. But I think that makes that one poem a little more special, you know. I’m writing only what’s necessary because I don’t have time for anything else. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the only reason I’m writing that one poem a month is because of the poet friends I have holding me accountable. We get together for food and poems and it feels nice to have my work critiqued instead of me constantly critiquing the work of my students. I do enjoy teaching though. Bunker Hill’s student population is 85% people of color, and so I try to only assign readings by people of color when possible. I think it’s important for students to be able to see themselves in their studies. To read people who know what it’s like to be a first generation college student, to be an immigrant, to be poor and oppressed by the power structure around them, to read people who figured out how to make sense of the particular chaos of their lives as hyphenated Americans. Many of my students have never read people like Gloria Anzaldua who wrote bilingually about being Chicana or read a black man making sense of blackness the way Ta-Nehisi Coates does, and it is wonderful to have that first experience with them. It feels necessary and right the way writing a good poem is necessary and right. My goal for next year is to continue learning how to integrate my life as poet and teacher. Which only translates so far to writing two poems a month instead of one. I am happy with my life and my work, and will continue taking baby steps to making it even better.”