You Can't Name This, You Can't Let It Go

“Is it ever gonna be enough?”

                —“Gold Guns Girls,” Metric     

We are in a country on the brink of Idiocracy. Our politics are a walking, septic Dumpster fire and they make you write about love? To be honest, you have no desire to write about politics either. Hell, you might as well shove a pen up your ass and draw an intricate map of the central nervous system with the pen's still-protruding ink tip just barely past your cheeks. Sure, you love your family and friends but that’s natural. When folks tell you to love your enemy, however, that’s a whole other animal.

To put it simply, there is no affection lost for what or who hurts you, so that platitude is out. You especially hate it when those special, special folks spout off Martin Luther King Jr. quotes as a means of disguising thinly veiled prejudices. Really? You bet half of the cats who quote King probably don’t even know what he was about and, if they did, they’d realize he was far more progressive and radical than they could fathom. It’s as if all the “dream” and “non-violence” stuff make him out to be like Diet Coke or Pepsi or something. Basically, he’s “Diet Black” or “Black Lite” to a lot of these yahoos who believe that if you like one black person, just one, then you are so not racist.

But, love?

Repeating it doesn’t make it popular, you know?

Besides, in its basic terms, it’s just acquiescence to emotions like affection and loyalty. It is also wetwork straight out of the KGB playbook sometimes. It is being told you are adored by the same father who readily writes you off as a “mistake” just before he tailspins into claims that you are to blame for the wreckage that was, and is, his promising life. It is a willingness to accept that you are nothing more than an extension of him and that he is “good” and “loving” to endure a burden like you for so long. After all, most of his kind cut and run. Apparently, “There’s no Father’s Day in Puerto Rico,” he says. Instead it is known as the Day of the Dog. His old man was the textbook shitcock drunk complete with trigger happy tongue and fists and actual shotgun trigger. Luckily, oral cancer got to him and he’s missing his tongue back in South Carolina somewhere, alone. 

In Dante’s Inferno, the seventh circle of Hell is devoted to those who commit violence against others and themselves. Since Gramps’ life was one long suicide and war without the punchline, would he be a quiet tree in the Wood of Suicides or a sinner upon the burning sands? Is South Carolina just another name for Hell in this case of poetic justice?

It is having brothers who are your world and being afraid of waking up in the middle of the night to a phone call and a water-wrought mom with stories of how some cop popped them in a case of “wrong color at the wrong time.” It is holding your month-old nephew as you watch hour after hour of news coverage on Sandy Hook and the warm, slumbering infant is ignorant of the tears kayaking down your face. Love is adoring children so much that you decide not to have them on account of your shit genes, race, and gun-nut country. After all, addiction is an enemy cavalry in, like, half of your chromosomes—along with refined abuse.

Love is Mom in the hospital aching with cancer and filled with tubes. It is placing gauze on her wounds at home with her blood on your fingers. It is her warm meals and her goodnight kiss, games with family and your laughing nephew using you as a jungle gym. It is car rides to the beach with your friends under the stars, punk rock shows, zine meetings, open mics, and just belonging.

It is spending your whole life thinking you are nothing but a stain on someone else’s hand—one that is self-aware of how it taints the palm as it desperately craves its own erasure. It is learning the proper way to punch just to get a glance from your Dad weighed with pride, and seeing it there. It is learning the art of lying just so no one gets hurt and the fear when the lessons fail. It is accepting that you are the problem and it will always be your fault. It is learning to be content with love’s conditions, the guilt of confession whether it be in ink or speech and being unable to stop yourself regardless.

JORDAN E. FRANKLIN is a poet from Brooklyn, NY. In 2012, she received her BFA from Brooklyn College. Currently, she is a Turner fellow and second-year MFA candidate at Stony Brook Southampton. Her work has appeared in the Southampton Review, North American Review, Suffragette City Zine and Breadcrumbs. In 2017, her work “Black Boy” was selected by Major Jackson as the winning poem of the James Hearst Poetry Prize hosted by the North American Review.

An avid performance poet, she is a frequent performer at "Having a Whiskey Coke With You."