Poem by Joey De Jesus

• June 2019

Black Flag


“We are dying here, and I cannot fathom the thought that the greatest nation in the world cannot figure out logistics for a small island of a hundred miles by thirty-five miles long. So, Mayday, we are in trouble.” Mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz





How would I prepare, if not by
smoking tree? Premium dark
kidney habichuelas against side
-ache, I guess. How else prep
a whirl of sabor if not con agua
de coco from GOYA? What the
sea eyes something I cannot
wepa or wipe, wet with outstretched
arms, no, alms, palsy-addled—
how else but stunned, astonished
from tonare
to thunder, to be thunder
-struck—larger than what pain
tree-smoke fleshing eye—I
from what I cannot fathom

“We are dying here, and I cannot fathom the thought that the greatest nation in the world cannot figure out logistics for a small island of a hundred miles by thirty-five miles long.”



“. . . cannot figure out logistics . . .”

i slogs loss
til it solicits
logic, sis

i silo sol
til siglos clot,
til colt gits,
soils its SOS sigil,
illotic, I silt loss.

Glossitic sciolist,
is I cis? Is I licit?

I list costs, toss
gilt to slot,
stoic, log toils to
gist logistics.



“FEMA asks for documentation. I think we’ve given them enough documentation. And they have the gall this morning—Look at this! Look at this!—they think it weighs enough?”

Two binders hail Mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, to worldly action. In her speech on 29 September 2017, after a round of press conferences in which she pleads for donations and federal aid in response to Hurricane Maria, shit gets really real, signaled syntactically when she interrupts herself, injecting a directive mid-sentence, Look at this!

Distance is a relative distance, always.
Realness intervenes as proverbial rupture.
Threshold of rage, thrush held my throat in contempt.
Insisting violence take the fore in form.

Where do you think you are?

Reality is the floor of a coastal storehouse,
no water to drink.

When shit gets real, people shut the fuck up.

Cruz throws the two white binders off the podium to the floor, initiating space anew against crisis, paper the medium of destruction. Volumes of violence signal apocalypto. Thrown, they epitomize the amplitude of powerlessness on the front against colonial brutality. Her performance misfires in its humanly attempt to renegotiate reality through exercising personal power against dominant power.



the high road ships up, citizen
uplift: weight lead-lift into citizen

the flag flattens our knowledge quest
I Cruz when I can’t

“Look at this! Look at this!”

weight of paper phase space
weight for spite


render density sensible, sonic
that slam *slam*

roof loss, tarp-life; thick present, living past

“Do they think it weighs enough?”

this bulking ray warp
promise of rescue

this knowledge relative to worms



Joey De Jesus is the author of HOAX (Operating System, 2020) and NOCT—the Threshold of Madness (Atlas Review, 2019) and the coauthor, with Sade LaNay, of Writing Voice into the Archive, vol. 1, organized and edited by Jennifer Tamayo, with support from UC Berkeley’s Center for Race and Gender. Joey coedits poetry at Apogee Journal and sits on the advisory board of No, Dear magazine. Joey received the 2019–20 BRIC ArtFP Project Room Commission and 2017 NYFA/NYSCA Fellowship in Poetry. Poems have appeared in the Academy of American Poet’s Poem-a-Day, Bettering American Poetry, Barrow Street, BOAAT, the Brooklyn Rail, the Cortland Review, the Literary Review, Newtown Literary Alliance, Southern Humanities Review, and several other venues. Poems have been performed and/or installed in Artists Space, Basilica Soundscape, the New Museum, the Poetry Project, and elsewhere.