:: Article

A Poem Some People Will Have to Misunderstand

By Autumn Hayes.

A Poem Some People Will Have to Misunderstand
ah Leroy/Leroi/LeRoi/Imamu/Amiri/ 1

I. Georgi(a)c

Mila te stow league-ee.2 Das watt we dew.
Mila may stow ahspro3, pour las caras
they’ ohRay’haas4 clamtight. Ayscalaw!mose5
ah untheefineabulls. Ah gnotsnoefoll
awn nautbeeches—ah knowhour, nomen-ut—allah6
0000 o’ clock—à la a absince
uff moon awn beaches, a LET DARE BE LITE
unlet, a waw’ters
und’vIded from waw-ters. Theemos7
wut wus
b’4 their wus theece
chill dren, lentdyed on s-eyed wawks tooful
of ownflesh tobreathe—be forthe maSheen
Gun-ners me Law may
wat wuz
befoar they’re wus
a wird
fore culler, or color. Whi naught unlease literite mithAwe
lowgee—diss, all soe, wass won
uv d’ex-awtick playsez—wI knot unleash de duv to dye
oar sore? Wye gnotte inn habit thee virb?
Weave kem 2 de dore
steppes uff the mauthart. Less us
go (th)in, us too, ah!there fose moo8. Less us Nter
de hallows, w-eyedwight. Less us fall owe
til awl iz dark ness & sinnter
iz edge & hand
pull’sez in thor axe & say,
R hear & we awl
waze half been, & weeeeeeee
maidleftseen     you     room

II. Grammar

a: Spanish. “to/at:” There was no moon as they drove to Preacher’s/he whistled at her and Carolyn/ went to get the gun (or English indefinite article: “one/some: used to indicate an unspecified or unidentified individual”) and one was wearing a black shirta
2 Μίλατε στο λίγοι/λίγη: corrupted Greekb: Corrupted: We never could scare him./They had him/…so full of that poison/…he was hopeless/…what could we do?/ What provoked/ such an aggressive/ response?
   Μίλατε: translatable as “Speak” or “You speak” (Singular, formal case)c Can I say it? He had/ exchanged/ some explicit words/ with me/ Don’t you say Yeah to me, boy
   στο: “to/at the” (singular, neuter)d Fuck what you have/ to say/ I knew/ I had backup/ on the way
   λίγοι: “few/a few/a little” (plural, masculine); λίγη: “a few/ few/ a little” (singular, feminine)e:
     we was just gonna scare him a little/ It was like a five-year-old holding/ onto Hulk Hogan
3 Μίλαμε: Greek. “We speak”; άσπρο: Greek. “white”f: Outsiders/ Agitators/ Not Our Own/ Negroes/ Ferguson loves Ferguson/ No/ problem/ LOOK/ I had to kill someone
4 por las caras/ de orejas: Spanish. “in/ through the faces of ears”g not guilty/declined to indict/I’m sorry/ that their son had to lose/ his life
5 Escalamos: Spanish. “We climb”h He ignored all the commands/ and just kept running/And he was looking/ down on you?/ It was like I wasn’t there
6 αλλά: Greek. “but”i Their hands are what will hurt you
7 Dimos: Spanish. “We say/tell”j It looked like he was trying/ to intimidate me
8 αδερφός μου: Greek. “my brother”k: What provoked such an aggressive response?/The only emotion I’d ever felt was fear,/ and then survival and training/ kicked in/ we taught him/
a lesson/ Can I kill this guy? Like, legally/ Can I kill this guy?

III. Gloss

a Generalized African-American-male names grow more Islamic/Arabic toward End. 1960s-Militant Agenda.
b Corruption/Error: tenuous grasp on Language. Author not likely a native Speaker.
c The Greek [see ‘The,’ below], as other Languages, including French, Spanish, Italian, addresses the Aged and High-Ranked with Particular [see below] Cases. Indicates Class Division.
d το being equivalent to the English “the” (definitive article: “that in particular”; “particular,” adjective: “of or relating to a specific person or thing; distinctive, special; separate, individual; attentive to detail; hard to please, exacting”). Στο, then, merges σε (“to/at”) with το, dropping the particle ε, eliminating awkward pauses and all distinctions made outside context, as evinced by the ubiquitous ston/stin/sta/stis/stous/sto constructions, used in Greek to denote anything from “close to” to “far from” or “inside.” Generally Imprecise yet Portable Construction.
e Vagaries, vaguely Constructed. How can One address an Unknown Number and Gender?
f Extraneous sto. To Speak White means…? Who are We?
g Poor Pun Attempt
h Clear Tower of Babel Ref. Or Mobility? Upward? Non-native Speaker? with Axe? to Grind?
i There is no excuse for religious intolerance.
j Dimos/Demos. But whose?
k Simultaneously Sentimental and Racist Bullshit.

Autumn Hayes‘ poems, essays, and short fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in African American Review, The Seattle Review, Teachers and Writers Magazine, Southern Women’s Review, and the micro-fiction anthology 140 and Counting. She holds an MFA in poetry from Texas State University, where she teaches.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Friday, August 4th, 2017.