The Sobbing School

is where I learned to brandish the black like a club
you know, like a blunt object, or cobalt flashes of strobe
dotting damp walls after dusk drops the dark motion
our modern world can’t hold. There’s a process
by which bodies blend in, or don’t, or die, or roll on
past the siren’s glow so as not to subpoena the grave.
Mama never said surviving this flesh was a kind
of perverse science, but I’ve seen the tape,
felt the metal close & lock around my wrists, witnessed
bone bisected by choke hold. A crow turns crimson
against the windshield & who would dare mourn
such clean transition, the hazard of not knowing
you are the wrong kind of alive. But enough
about extinction. Entire towns mad with grief, whole
modes of dreaming gone the way of life before lyric,
all faded into amber & archive, all dead as the VCR,
all buried below the surface where nothing breaks, bleeds.

— Joshua Bennett

American poet and performance artist Joshua Bennett studied English and Africana Studies as an undergraduate at University of Pennsylvania before earning his Ph.D. from Princeton University.

The Sobbing School was inspired by the words of Zora Neale Hurston: “I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a lowdown dirty deal and whose feelings are all hurt about it. . . . No, I do not weep at the world — I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.”

[Research note: Joshua Bennett, The Sobbing School (Penguin Books, 2016)]

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