Three Poems – Anthony Ragler




My mother tells me I look like the reason she started drinking.

When my father told us
That he was leaving, she searched thru
his things to find traces of the next woman;
A blonde strand of hair, as if to say:
"I don't need you anymore"

That night, she found a bottle of Hennessy,
started chasing my father down to the bottom of it.
These days, I can’t tell her sober from her slumber.
I just want to be the reason she wakes up again.

The day we drive to my first semester of college,
She is a slur of tears and alcohol
telling me this is everything she ever dreamed of;
I am becoming more than my father was—
leaving for all the right reasons.

In the car, I fall asleep drunk off my mother's approval.
When I wake up, I am in a hospital bed.

My neck, broken in four places.
The doctor wheel me over to my mother.
her bruises, the darkest shade of whiskey.
She has so many nerve damages,
I can see the last nerve she always claimed
I got on.
Tubes run through her entire body
A machine has to breathe for her.

My mother's injuries are so severe
they make mine look like a scraped knee.
I am afraid of her dying before hearing a proper 
"I love you."

Months later, she wakes from her coma, and returns home.
Her left arm is paralyzed,
but she is sober, and full of fight.

She says her arm is a deadbeat father:
hasn't held her back before,
doesn't plan on starting today.
Our family tries to keep her from lifting a finger,
but my mother always needs someone to need her.
She loves by cleaning, cooking and holding the entire family together
With one arm.

I say: I am ready to move into my own place.
She says:  You are your father's child
I tell her this is me leaving
for all the right reasons;
to become the man she raised me to be.
All she hears is, "I don't need you anymore."
I don't feel like the son she’s dreamed of.
I feel like a chaser to her next shot.

Family Reunion

I'm so  excited that  Uncle Tommy finally  showed  up to  the reunion.
Soon  as   he  came in,    I begged  him  to play  some  football wit' me,
but   he  say,    "I  paid    $500   for  dis  suit  n  I  ain’t  finna   get  no 
dirt  on  it."    Uncle  Tommy  get  like  that  sometimes, but  Ma'  say 
he   come   in   all   proper   and   sadiddy;  got   us   thinkin’  we came 
underdressed  to the barbecue  we be  throwin' each  summer. Errbody 
lookin’  'round   like  dey  seen  a  ghost  cuz   Tommy'nem  ain't  been 
here  since  he  got   that   new  job  up  on  Wall  Street.   Cousin  Earl 
keep   asking  to  borrow   Tommy's  Benz  to  go to  the  store,  Jaime 
wanna   hold   5  dollars,  Tommy  say,   "I   stop  comin'  ‘round  here 
cuz  y'all   don't  know   how  to  act   around  nice   things.”    Erryone 
tryna   catch   up  wit’  Tommy  lil   girl - Big   Momma  say   she ain't 
see    her    since   she    was   ‘bout   'ye  high.    Uncle  Richie  smellin' 
like   PawPaw's   whiskey   closet,   tryna   smooth  talk    her   to   his 
‘68   Cadillac   wit’  de   emblem   missing.    Talkin   ‘bout   "Girl, yuh 
dun   grown   up  into  sum fine Yung  thang.    Watcho'  momma   been 
feeding  you?"  Tommy's  son  wanna  play  wit’ Auntie  Pearl's  boys, 
but  Tommy  sayin'  they  might   be  a   bad  influence, ‘cuz   he  know 
dem   boys   got    sticky   fingers   e’er   since   his    designer   Neiman 
Marcus   cufflinks   went   missing  ‘bout  three  summers  ago.  Auntie 
Pearl    say,   "My   boys   ain't  no    thieves,    and   dem   cufflinks  is 
knock  offs  anyway.    Den  Tommy  start  complaining ‘bout  de food 
bein’   unhealthy.   Ma'  say,  "Him   use’ta   be   de   first   one  runnin’ 
fo’  Big  Momma's  desserts.  Now  alla   sudden   he   don't   eat  sweet 
potato   pie   no   mo'.   Actin’  all  brand  new  n   shit.    Askin’  if  we 
got   sum   Frank   Sinatra   to  play,  cuz    he   don't   want    his    kids 
listenin’   to   James   Brown,   Frankie   Beverly,  Al  Green,   or   none 
of   that   devils'  music.   Back   in  the  day, Uncle  Tommy would call 
that  soul  music,  but   I  guess  he   ain’t  got  one   of  those   no  more. 
Cousin   Mabel   askin'  why  Tommy  comin’n  all  did up   and  bougie 
like  he   going  to  church.    N   Tommy  call  her  a   country  bumpkin. 
N Mabel tell  Tommy to ‘member where he came  from.  N Tommy say 
he  tryna   forget  that.    Mabel's  fiancée  Greg  is  mad.    Papa  Jenkins 
gotta referee ‘tween  Greg ‘n Tommy. Greg  call  Tommy white-washed. 
Tommy  call  Greg  jealous. Greg  call Tommy, Uncle Tom. Tommy call 
Greg  a   field   nigger.    Now   erryone's  all  offended,   wonderin’  who 
invited Tommy. Sayin’ dey not coming  back  next  summer if he coming. 
Aunt  Joyce  tryna  keep  the  peace.   Auntie  Pearl  boys  bring  out  de 
cufflinks   to    see    that'll   stop   de    fighting.     But   now   Tommy's 
even  more  mad cuz  de  boys  had  de  cuff  links  all  dis  time.  N  now 
everyone's  screaming.   N  Big  Momma's  getting  a headache.    N  all  I 
wanted was sumone to throw de football around wit’.

The Crucifixion: Matthew 27, for Michael

27 And then the officers of Ferguson took Michael into the street and gathered upon him 
the whole neighborhood. And Michael raised his palms — the Whitest flag He could offer
28 When they orchestrated Him an elegy of lead — 
29 And planted it upon His head, and chest, and arm, and one in His right hand 
30 They did not bow before Him, for He is not King nor Savior, but another Black body 
that will not be avenged
31 And mocked His kin, said Darren Wilson will not be indicted
The way George Zimmerman will not be convicted
32 The way Eric Garner will not become Lazarus
33 And when they come unto a place called Ferguson or Sanford or Staten Island
34 Which is to say: a place called Mourning
35 And they crucified him — parted His Black from His bone. And in the sixth hour there 
was darkness — all the Black in the city had gathered. And in the ninth hour they wept. 
And Michael Sr. had taken the body, and wrapped it in a suit, casket sharp. And on the 
107th day there was fire, for Michael had yet to be risen from the dead — for he was 
truly the Son of Black America.

I told myself I wouldn't write the Black poem/About how death calls us the way parents 
call children for supper/ Then I told myself I could survive if I made myself smaller/
Swallowed the key to my voice box/All Black biographies end in execution/I decided it 
was more important to be alive than acknowledged/Then the silence was deadly/Then bullets 
sang Cardinal birds throughout Brooklyn/Then the tears caught up to me/The tears that did 
not fall for St. Kimani, St. Akai, St. Freddie/ St. Jordan St. Tamir St. John/ How the 
dead Black Boys names start to read like scripture/ Then the protests were misnamed for 
riots/ I didn't feel entitled to my own anger/For it belonged to the same people that owned 
these Black bodies for so many years/And it felt like tradition/Like a sacrifice to their 
God/Like Black is Sin/And Michael died for all of our Black/And we rage/We do this in 
remembrance of Him/And Him/And Hymn.

"When the lights shut off, and it's my turn to settle down, my main concern — promise that 
you will, sing, about me. Promise that you will, sing, about me."

About Anthony Ragler

Anthony Ragler is a poet from NYC. He's represented NYC-Urbana at the 2014 National Poetry Slam and placed 2nd in the nation as well as the Urban Word NYC slam team at the 2013 Brave New Voices Festival that placed 3rd internationally. He has co-coached the 2015 Columbia University slam team at CUPSI and was named the 2014 Inspired Word grand master slam champion. He is currently an English and Education dual major at Mercy College. View all posts by Anthony Ragler

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