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Jeff Rogers: “The White Liberal Poet Organizes a Reading Against Racism”

The White Liberal Poet Organizes a Reading Against Racism

I’m not ashamed to say it, but I cried like a baby through John Lewis’s funeral.
And I watched the BLM protests 24 hours a day for a solid week.
Would have been out there myself except for my co-morbitites.
Can’t risk the COVID. But I fucking hate racism.
That’s why I left Florida and moved to L.A.—all those
damn racists I grew up with. We don’t have that problem
on the LA poetry scene, thank God.

And that’s why this idea just possessed me—
that I had to pull together a whole bunch of my favorite
powerhouse poets for a big reading against racism.
Man, we’re gonna get in some good trouble.
We’re gonna make a statement.

We’ve got a great lineup already. Everyone wants to do it.
I’ve got feelers out to three black poets and one Latino
and I sure hope one of them gets back to me before that last slot gets filled.
‘Cause we’ve got Kenneth Bishop, the old neo-beat Buddhist communist
bebop jazz poet. He’s going to do fifteen minutes from his 100-page epic
“Horseshit Highway Manifesto,” where he roadtrips across racist America
from coast to coast tripping balls on acid shrooms pot and peyote.
He savages the South, bulldozes the Midwest,

and puts a stake through the heart of the plains states.
Everywhere but here, he chants, Everyone but me.
He’s got a lotta rhythm for a white dude LOL.
Man, we’re gonna make a real statement.

Jennifer Pepper, that hot young blonde poet, is gonna do her poem
called “Swipe Left Bitch, You Know I Don’t Fuck Racists.”
And look. You gotta check out her Instagram. Scroll down
to those bikini photos where she shows off all her tats.
Just got word that Nick Bundt wants to be on the bill.
You remember him—from his old punk band Waxing Gibbous,
when he went by the name Giggy Ballsack?
He’s got this piece called “I Pronounce Myself Guilty”
where he confesses every racist thought he’s ever had.
It climaxes with him screaming Forgive Me! Love Me!
while he’s yanking out clumps of his own hair
and throwing them at the audience. Then he
breaks down sobbing and pounding on the floor.
He makes a gorgeous catastrophe of his own feelings.
We’re gonna make a righteous statement with this thing.

I sure do hope one of those black poets gets back to me soon
before someone else nabs that last spot,
because this is a real important fight, taking down racism.
Gloria Glitter, the 80s party-girl poet, is doing her signature piece
“Color is Just a Trick of the Light.” It’s kind of her
“Stairway to Heaven.” Starts out as a lyrical ode
to sex, drugs, and her black lover who was killed by the cops
and then builds to a soaring crescendo on how race
has no scientific validity and we’re all just children of Africa
and if we’d only realize it we could all live as one family.
See what I’m sayin? A statement, man, we’re making a fuckin’ statement.

I really thought about getting Mike the Poet to do his
hip-hop LA history stuff, but he always insists on
bringing along a whole flock of his urban high school students.
And I mean, they’re talented and all and it’s downright noble
but I’m not sure they’re right for this crowd and
we don’t really have the time for all that. We gotta
keep the program moving. So instead I’ve got
Jerry Reynolds, the kinda intellectual-looking poet with
the longish gray hair, beard, and glasses.
Looks a little like Steven Spielberg?
He does these real ironic Joycean Lewis Carroll wordplay-type poems
and he’s got this one called “Life on Singing Street” which is just
a devastating takedown of 60s/70s white flight suburban hypocrisy.

Still no response from those black poets, though.
Such a great opportunity for them, I can’t figure it out.
At this point, I almost hope they don’t get back to me, frankly.
Sometimes it’s just easier to go with the poets you can relate to.
Just between you and me, if I’m being real honest,
I’m kinda scared of those black poets. I always feel like
they’re judging me. I’m always sure I’m gonna say something wrong.
Seems like every damn day there’s five more ways to fuck it up.
And who wants to feel that guilty all the damn time, anyway?
I mean, goddamit—
it shouldn’t be this hard,
should it?
We’ve got a statement to make
against racism.

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