Justin Rogers is a poet, educator, coach and venue owner from the city of Detroit, Michigan. Rogers is an advocate for literacy among inner-city youth, and the amplification of Black voices. Still performing around the Mid-West and teaching poetry with InsideOut Literary Arts, Rogers actively shares poems surrounding living and growing as a Black man in America. Rogers most recently has work published or forthcoming in APIARY Magazine, Mobius Magazine, and Tinderbox Poetry Journal.
After Aracelis Girmay
Five stories into dawning sky
here in the crusted bucket seat
of my cracking car’s catalytic converter
is a stolen hum. Here is humming
over the Detroit skyline
an orange pool of silk atmosphere
tainting a burning heap of rusted metal. Here
is the world’s largest incinerator
trying its flames damndest to
look like every lip pierced
purple haired penthouse
developed city it is not.
Here is ignoring waves of ‘good hair’
“pretty eyes with my glasses off”
“pale skin, even in the summer.”
Here is shopping for hipster clothing.
Here are closed family businesses
replaced by vegan chain restaurants.
Here is giving up meat.
Here is a love for coffee and
coffee houses and weed and live indie bands.
Here is forgetting my neighborhood and
being afraid to return there.
Here is realizing the blackness
ashing over my mulatto skin.
Here is being too ashamed
of my family’s Polish heritage
to take my grandmother’s invitations
to return home seriously. Here is
going home feeling like failing.
Here is avoiding anecdotes
referring to Poland or the Atlantic
or what owning a home in this neighborhood
used to mean or how women
didn’t go to college in the 60’s
or how my grandmother ran away
or how she had a little girl
by a black man in San Francisco.
Here is never hearing the relationship shunned.
Here is still checking “Other”
in the options for my race.
Here is Kielbasa and Fried Chicken.
Here is slavery and Holocaust
Catholic and Christian Jesus calling me
Here is no one knowing His race either.
Here is knowing my savior’s skin
would not help anything.
Here is my skin granting me
minimum wage temporary jobs
for which my degree claims I am overqualified.
Here is driving Interstate 94 daily
just to see the world’s largest incinerator burn
everything except my crack decayed city.
Here is gentrification.
Hoping I am mixed enough.
Here is not being anything enough.