I Am Tired of Mourning Our Dead #BlackPoetsSpeakOut

My name is N.I. Nicholson, and I am a black poet. I will not sit by silently while black people are being murdered. And I have a right to be angry.

For other black poets reading selections as part of #BlackPoetsSpeakOut, see here: http://www.culturalfront.org/2014/11/a-roundup-of-blackpoetsspeakout.html?m=1

I Am Tired of Mourning Our Dead

while words clump together
dam up my throat like
dead black bodies

we feel our strangled necks:
the strange feeling
the nooses never left

don’t explain
our dead children away
we know

reasons drip
rotting, strange fruit
swaying in a sour wind

invisible hands
count our blood drop coins
we count bullets

stolen breaths
murderers walking free
your justifications

will not feed our babies
sing them to sleep will not
bring them back alive

will not strip away
the price tag stamped
on my forehead

lest you think you’re free
reach up tune in
your numb fingertips

rub away your privilege
feel the dollar sign brand
seared into your forehead

and tell me
hashtag all lives matter
how about hashtag


Written 11/28/14
© 2014 N.I. Nicholson. All rights reserved.


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Announcing: Raven’s Wing Drafts

Howdy folks!

I have opened a new space, Raven’s Wing Drafts, to share my working drafts and revisions in a private setting, as I intend to submit the final products of these for publication. Go check it out, and if you’re interested in reading anything, contact me privately for the password.



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Thou shalt beat him [a child] with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.
— Proverbs 23:14

Dear Dr. Lovaas: I must tell you
about the hot brand embossed
into my sacroiliac skin,
a letter D like my algebra grade
from high school freshman year — or,
D for “dumb”, D for “different”,

the toothless sideways grin
of my Thalia mask.

Maybe it was a comedy,
trying to pour my skinless self
into a “normal” mold:

but the licks of angry tongues
and leather belts
made me try to liquify, solidify,

until I was all Good Christian Girl,
a Goody-Two-Shoes with a warped face
and curved heart — a thing
I vaguely recognized in the mirror.

Truth is, I had the mask
upside down: it was Melpomene’s.
I should have been singing
its goat-song, to match the stinking fur
slapped onto my back

while I, 14 years old, autistic,
ignorant of my stripped fiber optics
and brain wiring like barking sycamores,
was made to dance to Normal in B# Minor
in glass-shard ballet shoes.

Lovaas, you demon, you quack,
maybe you never instructed
my family in your methods
but the outcome is the same:
at 38, my feet still fucking bleed

Written 8/11/14
Revised 10/8/14
© 2014 Nicole Nicholson. All Rights Reserved.
This was a poem originally written in August but just revised today as I feel it is timely. Sparrow Rose Jones’ blog post about ABA (applied behavioral analysis) inspired me to revise and post this poem. Jones breaks down with clarity and detail about ABA and why it is not only useless to help teach autistic children but why it is damaging and hurtful.

I grew up not knowing I am autistic. I was abused physically, emotionally, and sexually by my family of origin, who insisted that there was “something wrong with me” and I needed to be forced to “act normal”. I see so many parallels between some of the abuse I endured and modern (and even past ABA methods, as evidenced by this 1965 Time Magazine Article describing therapies that are the precursor to ABA — DO NOT READ IF YOU ARE EASILY TRIGGERED!). Dr. Lovaas may not have been instructing my family on how to abuse me, but he helped influence the dominant cultural paradigm which insists on a false sense of “normality” — a state of being that the majority is but minorities are not. Normal is a lie, and no matter whether your difference from the dominant culture is in terms of race, gender, gender identity, neurological state of being, sexual orientation, disability, what have you, if you are different, you are often made to feel as if you must conform.

So this poem, you could say, is my comment on the issue. I was angered and hurt at some comments parents have made on The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism which started this whole debate in the first place — and Jones’ response is brilliant and well thought out. Mine is certainly angrier, but I’m throwing it into the dialogue, for what it’s worth.

This poem, it should be noted, was also generated in my writing towards my final MFA thesis and book of poems. It may be revised and republished, but I hope its essence remains the same. It should get pretty interesting, folks.


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The Act of Counting

To be black in America is to at times commune with the unnaturally dead.
— Cornell W. Brooks

Should I count my blessings:
that I don’t have bullets
buried in my back,

Continue reading

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And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel…putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away…into the wilderness.
— Leviticus 16:21

Hidden sins are an anvil
on the head: your jaw aches,
your brain bowed low
until it is an evil grin.

I learned this when I was 13,
wearing goat skins for the sins
of my tribe:

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Brick (New Version)

Nothing is yellow here. I am surrounded
by brownstone giants poking square holes
in a gray cloud ceiling. I haven’t seen
a cyclone in years, only twin smoke pillars of grief
pouring from dying concrete towers.
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Do You See the Stars?

The room dissolved, bloomed
night as blue-black blood and
rain dashes sprinting to Earth and
slapping shadow-stained pavement.

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