Best of the Net 2016  

Preface to a Twenty-Volume Regicide Note

after Krista Franklin after Amiri Baraka

Lately, I've become accustomed to the way
each newly dead face flashes like a crushed fire

-work across the screen. The red mass
of each name. How each name settles,

a fistful of ash at the back of the throat.
I don't hope for ceasefire much, if you

must know. I don't pray for rain.
On a good day, I honor the war

by calling it war. I sing
along with the hook. I sing

every nigga is a star
& don't mean dead

things shine too. For shame,
my six-year-old nephew dreams

of a life indebted to invention,
his first prototype a blade

-thin suit to help the human body move
faster. For a muse, he claims nothing

more than the implicit sweetness of speed,
but I know his best heart, how he longs

for cousins to grow gray as an alloy alongside.
I think him a prophet. I think of the fire.

I think of the drones with pictures of first wives
in their wallets, their bad teeth, middle names,

401ks for when all of the blood dries. I think
of the badge & see children running,

children laughing, children cradled
in smoke all at the exact same time.

On a good day, I think die die die
and don't know where to aim

the hex, who to hunt down or cut
a deal with, some armistice

without end, a certain commitment
to infinitude built right into the fine

print, in an unexpected turn.
I don't want any more words

that heal. I want a language for being
born underground, gravestone quarried

the moment you arrive. I want explosions
or else a fresh cosmos. I want the fang

-white king splayed
against a throne of bones

& bars I see in all my new dreams
gone. Spare me any coalition

that does not require blood.
Give me time to think & a hope

-less cause. Give me lethal
equipment. Give me the names

of the slain. Say each name
like benediction. Ask

who will claim this flesh?
Expect the quiet.

Expect the flood.

- Joshua Bennett (from Guernica)