I imagine the advertising in Rome
for whatever was sold in the streets was also
rhetorically rich and dumb
anaphorae for mass-produced
we commit to [a]
we commit to [b]
[c] … [d] … [e] …
as long as the plaque could be seen.
I have not been able to touch
the plague inside me.
But unless I learn to use
the difference between signage and poetry
children will inherit my flaw
and their marches will be blind
leading the blind
into a ditch
in front of the church
a muted palette on linen
underpainted peasant eyes
showing what art has done.
Who the fuck is Pieter Bruegel?
Sure he’s always watching me dance
but he’s also caught between his dancing
and pleasing the rest who watch the dance.
At least when my friend gaslights me
about suffering the cruel
optimism of striving parents
and denies the case of Michael Brown
I understand why he must
and can never perish.
The collision of realities reveals
he is the alabaster 6´2˝ structure
of all imperial oppression
forensic science, evidence
gladly smiling true discomfort
at a faculty party where two
men of color waltz
atop white nods
before speaking only to each other.
The difference between poetry and signage
is being ready to sell
yourself instead of victims
then annihilate your buyers.
JENNIFER NELSON’s first book of poems, Aim at the Centaur Stealing Your Wife, came out with Ugly Duckling Presse in December 2015. She is a fellow of the Michigan Society of Fellows and teaches in the art history department at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.