What We Lost In The Fire
Mahogany L. Browne

October 14, 2013

she done     gone lost her mind       gone black      blank
rubble rubbish     piles and piles      of smoke
                 clear caved in chest           spread beds  burn
       before ashes spread         down 95 south
in a land of Mary                     in a land of black and merry
                 in a land  where Redbone found           clouds
to              corner her                like he did —                               once
she fled for her baby                her  baby’s  baby     she           think
                 smoke   can’t   find    them   there               too //
like she can’t see                       clouds                          thick       with
                 almost               when it spread   way up     North      UP
near the boulevard                where a planet cradle
big  stones   for   home      here, her baby             and  her  baby’s
baby   find   a   lullaby in the belly of a steel horse Redbone     so
hungry for hustlegristle crack break baby’s jaw                    run
slack       her           child boomerang    dey mama’s sunshine    to
a  southern  city  with  a  cardinal’s  nest  for  a  name  Redbone
find   smoke   there  too//    where smoke is less grey       almost
white       so white
                 she  dream  of  clouds                                 //on repeat//
                 dream  of  arms  full   of  her  baby’s  baby    she  is
                 always a          fragment of a coast-sludged woman
                                                                                                             she  is
always a                                       mother                      heaving     grief
she be:          missing her own mother             swaddled in    smoke
and guilt             — it kills everything:   a people               a home
                 or a spirit                             — yea      guilt can kill a spirit

Mahogany L. Browne is the author of several books including Swag & Dear Twitter: Love Letters Hashed Out On-line. She has released five LPs including the live album Sheroshima. A recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem and Poets House, she is co-founder of the Off Broadway poetry production, Jam On It, and co-producer of NYC’s 1st Performance Poetry Festival: SoundBites Poetry Festival. Browne has toured Germany, Amsterdam, England, Canada and recently Australia as 1/3 of the cultural arts exchange project Global Poetics. Her poetry has been published in literary journals Pluck, Muzzle, Union Station Mag, Literary Bohemian, Bestiary Brown Girl Love and Up The Staircase. She is an Urban Word NYC mentor, as seen on HBO’s Brave New Voices, and facilitates performance poetry and writing workshops throughout the country. She is the publisher of Penmanship Books, a small press for performance artists and owns PoetCD.Com, an on-line marketing and distribution company for poets. Mahogany is the Nuyorican Poets Café Poetry Program Director and curator of their famous Friday Night Slam.

What motivates her to create:
“The body of my work explores sound, silence and blackness. It demands to be celebrated within the reflection of my predecessors resistance Nikki Giovanni and Lucille Clifton. This work is a mixture of lyrical and narrative poetry spinning its top against the foundation of old Negro spirituals, sharecroppers and the new age mammy with the intent of creating a broader (see: barrier-less) space for the black women aesthetic. In this act alone, the readers are encouraged to recreate their own ideas of identity, sexuality and gender roles.”