— June 17, 2015

                     stay close to my chest
                     as your first word
                     learn to be groundwater
                     and believe everything black around us can give birth

                                — Donny Jackson, church

the hurt resides
      even where it doesn't —
pervasive perverse
      prelapsarian post-
anything he can name —
      it's that strong that

familial — so long ago he
      heard the letters assemble
before he was able

      to hear the word emerge
felt the skeins of consonance
      uncoil against

the inner ear with genetic
      conviction — as though choice
were disarmed — as though

      the tongue of his ancestry
might bear the bite of exile
      for dissent to what he could

later not hold in the same
      phrase as meyn mentshn
my people — because how

      could the Judaic millennia
spawn a thing so tainted  —
      how could the lesson

not enter the lineage
      the very lexicon of living —
here the childless man

      tells himself yet again
it ends right fucking here
      but how — how does he

disown his own — hand
      that swept the path clean
of so many sorrows life

      had set against his forebears —
a mother's caress encouragement
      the very breath of yes

that set him apart
      & set him amidst
that said Jew meant

      chosen meant whole
meant one touched by
      the kind of wisdom

that courted miracle —
      that might even
harmonize the impossible

      uproot nightmare
from the sacred soil of language
      before it becomes

blood escaping into earth
      into those darker cadences
which give birth

      only to the basest — how
does he come to faith in
      a posterity that warrants

real faith — he hears Terrance Hayes:
      a word can be the boot print
in a square of fresh cement

      or the boot print on
the back of what had once been
      human — how

does a people apart
      co-opt the heart
of its own dismay — how does a Jew

      survive his own undoing