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DARRYL LORENZO WELLINGTON’S LIFE’S PRISONERS

Artists are always in the forefront of social and political innovation. In a world gone mad with commodification and greed, they are generous and unafraid—inspiring and goading us to have agency in the world. One such artist is Darryl Lorenzo Wellington. SSB is proud to highlight a poem from Darryl’s new book of poetry, Life’s Prisoners, published by Flowstone Press.

 

Life’s Prisoners won the 2017 Turtle Island Poetry award. According to Turtle Island editor Jared Smith, in an introduction to the collection:

 

Life’s Prisoners is a heroic book, a tightly crafted volume of poetry that grabs you by the collar, shouts in your face, disrespects what should be disrespected, and after waking you up, lets you know that all of us are prisoners in cages we have allowed to be constructed around us. The poems move from staccato fragments of the pictures of a young man’s struggles, fear, and rage toward an indifferent world named and shaped by an unknowable elite, to impassioned pieces on what it is to be a man in such a world, to longer lined discussions of past and current history.”

 

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Concerning the Recent Brutality

 

10 pm. Stopped. Frisked.

One Man cries I Am I Am

in ecstasy and terror    I Am

as the Lord cried

to Moses. Three men

decline to listen

ignoring a sensibility

behind prophesy. A nearby

parking meter winks

metallically on a lightless

street corner. Witnessing

nothing. Glittering

after dark. Stands

like a watch

-tower going senile

totteringly decadent

on duty to collect

poised to pinch

the nickels and dimes

the irrevocable fines

the regular tariffs

blind to the charges of citizenship.

 

***

  1. The Falling Man

                       for Eric Garner

I can’t breathe.

I can’t see.

My body like a broken

cigarette

 

crushed fallow

busted loose

cops pick at me

for a chew

 

Cops finger me like an idle

Parliament. An off-duty

throwaway smoke

spent then discarded.

 

Tobacco still smooth –

soothing, breathable,

all smokes considered.

A life still Camel Unfiltered

 

still usable. Boots

steel-toed and prescriptive

snipe at the edges

of a Marlboro Man

 

Light me up.

Throw me down

like a flat-tired

Lucky Strike. Like a sparkle

 

soon forgotten.

Long time now.

Long time gone. No

news on the horizon –

 

since ‘fore I was born,

‘fore I struck light

men have been falling

the preachers the politicians

 

falling man falling

like past-due checks

the preachers the prideful

the banksters the big

 

pockets the bigger they are

the harder they. Noses

bloodied bones brittle

crackling clattering

 

like castanets.

Pull me loose

like the least of the

cards in the house –

 

falling any red card flashes

in royal pinstripes or

scarlet pantaloons, baby,

baby, least don’t say

 

however frankly I’ve come a long way.

Pall Malls consumed. Tossed.

I can’t breathe. I maybe still burn.

A short life a passable smoke

embering. Less than a matchstick

less, less than a Lucky Strike.

 

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About Darryl Lorenzo Wellington

Darryl Lorenzo Wellington has spent 20 years as a journalist, syndicated columnist, playwright, poet, surrealist, and performance artist. His essays on poverty, economic justice, race relations, African American history, civil rights history, and post-Katrina New Orleans have appeared in The Nation, The Progressive, The Christian Science Monitor, The Atlantic, Dissent, The Crisis (the official magazine of the NAACP), The Guardian, and many more. He has appeared as a guest on the Tavis Smiley Show radio program and is presently a Writing Fellow at the Center for Community Change in Washington, D.C. In the arts—and sometimes in life—he loves playing with fire. He’s an SSB Comrade Truebridge alum and lives in Santa Fe.