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T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M. (The Awesome Power of a Fully Operational Memory)

by Thomas Sayers Ellis

(reprinted in The Best American Poetry 2002)

for Sharan Strange


1 Alienation

The cassette tape
you sent had a sloppy,
secret second coming on it,
not to mention

the magic-markered mugs
of afronauts
with new spaceships
not manufactured

up south
in any of those privately-owned,
aspirin-white ghettos
ringworming the ozone.

Thanks! You’ve been here.
You know what
artist colonization is like:
lunchmeataphobia
and black radioinactive levels
of love amnesia
dense as the cosmos.
A brotherloadless UFO.

Only me and Michael S. Harper.
Barely a sister either,
except Afro-Sappho:
Sapphire.

                 All of one
day–one month
in the supergroovalistic guerrilla
Nipple Room
and nothing computes.

No wonder they call it Yaddo.
After Faber & Faber
it’s the whitest, most minus-da-groove
diaperspace I go:

icka tit,
icka clit,
icka prick,
lickety-split.

Deeper still, I didn’t come here to thighlight
empty memory’s bangalang mutiny
to zeep then zapp
glitter’s non-linear re-entry.

2 Anniversary

July 5, 1996. Central Park,
New York City. Both mobs up-in-here,
all of their survivors
and damn-near

half ours: you, me, Vera, Major
and Gelonia as well as
a few extended inkslingers.
I ran into Darius James

(who introduced me
to Pedro Bell) and Tracie Morris,
summer-swimming the crowd.
Pump up and down.

Ah Underground Angel!
Ah gaps and gadgets!
A limousine arrived from Mars.
Baldass Kabbabie babbled.

Remember? It was November 22, 1986.
I was writing a paper
on Jean Vigo,
and you: Sharan, you were looking

for one of Chris Marker’s
films, on video.
Ten years is not a long time
for poetry, but it is for us.

Next we were all living together in Cambridge.
After that, freeing and reading black books.
Then, Precious Lord, James Baldwin died
and we became a church.

Ah! Those Dark Room Sundays
and their infinite, unrehearsed, double-mouthed
              marches toward the rear.
Some readings you really could hear
              a rat piss on cotton

and on off weekends
workshops equally dark and feeling.
Your eloquent Ash was promoted there,
              in the funkcronomix,
between memory and experience.

Memory, Walcott says, moves backwards.
If this is true, your memory is a mothership
              minus the disco-sadistic silver
all stars need to shine. Tell the world.
A positive nuisance. Da bomb.

 

Thomas Sayers Ellis is the author of The Good Junk (1996) from the AGNI/Graywolf annual Take Three series and The Genuine Negro Hero, forthcoming from the Wick Poetry Chapbook Series. He teaches in the Bennington Writers Seminars and at Case Western Reserve University. (2000)


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AGNI Magazine :: published at Boston University ©2008 AGNI