Paintbucket - DON’T MATTER YOU DID OR YOU DIDN’T
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DON’T MATTER YOU DID OR YOU DIDN’T

Joseph Rathgeber

Saw Baraka w/ a cane at a conference once—led by
the arm down the aisle to the stage. The sort of late only poets w/ reps like him
get away w/.                I understood.
                He’d taken the train or bus or both in from Jersey.
I’d done the same.
I think about that moment a lot, his arrival.
He didn’t care. You shouldn’t care.

What would he make of his son’s mayoral bid?
                Would he and Ras talk about selling out? Would they sit
in recliners / in a living room / before a meal talking about reformism,

respectability politics,                and elections?

Would they pass a bowl of yams back and forth across the table,
                gruffly.

I think about whether he and Ginsberg ever fucked,                d’ya think?
Think about whether he ever asked Ginsberg about the young boys.
I think about whether they ever discussed forgiveness                at any length.

                                                                  My son, the mayor of Newark.
                                                                  That’s something else.

What about the water, I wonder? Baraka would                bring it up.
                I’ve no doubt.
And when his son would speak of the feds’ report of 97 percent effective
filters,                a significant reduction in lead levels, I trust

that Baraka would suggest heaving the system, in toto, into Newark Bay.

Saw Baraka in a photograph / in a diner booth / leaning in to listen
                beside Diane di Prima. Someone divining
1967, maybe—
a busted window at the precinct / property damage / looting.

And I know                you know                Baraka is gleeful.

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Also by Joseph Rathgeber

DON’T MATTER YOU DID OR YOU DIDN’T

IF THEY DON’T BURN YOUR CAR, YOU SHOULD DO IT YOURSELF