to the dispossessed, angelina
By: Keith Johnson
to the dispossessed, angelina would you raise your white russian with hands whittled by decades fitting shift dresses at the maidenette eyes, the same whirling milkiness as your trembling tumbler long after they put you on aricept and your daughters stopped dyeing your hair would the residuum of your mercy curl like smoke out of the butt tower and follow the chirr of cicadas and circular saws from borough to borough cape-cod style to superfund canal passed the racetrack and its jittery slut, the otb curlicuing around the bunned, beer-bellied missionaries outside of the meadery in a town with no bars and few jobs although the industrious have gigs, gigs, gigs lined up and over the ashen crosshatch she goes fording the perilous rapids of the expressways the baisley park projects creaking catholic feasts for seventeenth century saints peddling fried dough and heaving furniture to atheists and ms-13 in fugitive constellation around the unisphere for as long as the orbit holds and then whisked by the vertiginous flux of caribbean markets where cassava root and waxy breadfruit sprout from blockbuster cassettes and then blossom into smoothie shops from acorn to oak to acorn before angelina crouching between the bumpers of two parked cars finds a crease in the ochre curtain cast by the streetlight and heel to curb uncertain and ferocious pushes off, darting into the street sidestepping the few remaining guardians just able to find a pocket, duck a palm and with a ragged mary jane double-strapped, gold-toned buckle send an empty folger’s can over the heads of lawn jockeys clearing the mesh perches of pigeon coops and into the muggy gloaming resetting the game once and for all and in so doing, her exaltation no longer lost in some great wood no longer confined to the empty ripples of her cataracts to the meek to the indigent to the dispossessed, angelina do you gracefully return retracing your footsteps so that sicilian strongholds become honduran high-rises become vast branches of oyster reef and coastal vineyard becoming, finally the branches of her own misfiring fibers and before teddy can even put out the goldfish and plug in the neon you frown and lower your glass as if to say, “i am a poor woman. the only belongings i have left that are truly my own are my memories and my pain and their cures are close to consuming both.”
"A little about myself: I am an artist first and foremost, but over the years have paid the bills as an academic, grassroots organizer, and carpenter. I was born in Jamaica Queens (per capita one of the most diverse places on Earth) but have lived in rural Appalachia for the last ten years or so. I write about characters and from perspectives that are profoundly affected and disturbed by the many existential threats that define the 21st century: impending ecological disaster, the ceaseless brutality of neoliberalism/late stage capitalism, the collapse of truth, unifying narratives, and common values under the invasive expansion of information/communication technologies, and so on. With every poem, I attempt to process these overwhelming global and historical forces and circumstances through the prism of lived experience and winking humor. When I first sat down to write the poem "to the dispossessed, angelina," I scribbled in my notebook, "what is it like to live in a world without Angelina?" My grandmother had just passed away after years of suffering due to symptoms related to Alzheimer's disease. Angelina, or Anne as she was commonly known, was such an important part of my upbringing, and I found the world somehow altered by her absence. In my mourning, I wrote furiously, and tried to imagine her as a constellation of memories washing over a New York landscape we both knew so well, a landscape that was and is to this day so volatile and unforgiving for so many. This poem was the result of such reflection."