Justin Phillip Reed

Statement from No One, Incorporated


“what is it when a death is ruled a homicide but no one is responsible for it”
— Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib


We are not responsible. We have not
the capacity to respond, cannot take
your call, are not obliged. We promise
nothing in return except that we will
return, asking that the potential profit
this lost life’s labor could have produced
be accounted for and blaming our
Black dead president for the deficit. We
are deficient and without your damage
the world is difficult work to live on.
We live on the unanswerable, assert
that acknowledgment is inartistic,
history is regressive, and aggression
looks like no one we know. No one
is responsible while we have the luxury
to see ourselves as infinite ones, a sea
of individual possibility. We are so
many blades in the yard the wind
runs screaming invisibly through.
We need to have a deeper dialogue
about the need for deeper dialogue,
but oh oh, we are always these spondees
of speechlessness and cannot process
your request, are too busy about
our dreams. The celestial bodies appear
from here quite ripe for colonies and more
questions. We are over earthly inquiry
and unfortunately, though your sigh
traveled light-years from the dark
matter of gravity we’re intrigued to find
you now are, we will not see you today
(we are recessed on narrowing beaches,
toasting our gods with a wellsprung red
we cannot source but are confident
the year was relatively good), but here,
for your trouble, for coming so far:








                for Jonah


Between the ending and the end, I began to wear
the uniform of the abject. Adopting the nudes I knew
from archived news clippings as a form of refusal,
I ceased seeming civil, molted fistfuls of my suits
in the subways where, like patches of railkill, they crow-
clapped in the air around the endless march of cars,


then settled, fright-then-fold, into nests for the coarse
knees of beggars, who prophesied cypher-like: we were
all getting off at their stop. The ghosts went to work
as if ongoing was going to work after all, sliding now
and then through the gates of my shoulders like shoots
tonguing the platform’s cracked wince, refusing


to lie down and take it. I unearthed the damp refuse
of myself in the meantime, darting into haunted cars
reeking skunk from my kneebacks. I carried the seats
of my jeans like a suitcase, sneak-picked proxy-war-
like from every pocket, spat tulips of that new new
clipped from the dirty version of my throat’s crow


all while swinging down the aisles like a piece of Christ
in a corridor of nipples and black ink. My face refused
recognition. My aping sated their need for nothing new.
I tagged my “I” on a wall of “we,” where its raised scar
bellied wet as an early evening star until the surface wore
light as would a new moon. We noise-polluted civic duties,


churned off trains, smoked up from underground, suited
sidewalks like billy clubs, like the boys spread-crow
between the two. We tinted windows til the streets wore
their rash of new jacks as a garb. As grudge. We refaced
ourselves, wailed in the shape of 808, wept only scars
into the brown bags beneath our eyes, red-wet as Olde


English, as blood below our gilt-slick grins, our new
money burning on green breath. We grew hirsute.
We grew. Jooged smog, smashed highrises, scored
threes through jury boxes shot from car lots across
the river. We refused enunciation, then whole earfuls
of slander we packed into a syllable the sound of wire


cuffs snapping. We knew how freely the land wore
us, how unsuited we were for this tongue. Feral us,
crime-mobbing what work had been carried by crows.



Justin Phillip Reed’s first full-length collection of poetry, Indecency, is forthcoming from Coffee House Press in 2018. His poetry will soon appear in African American ReviewWashington Square Review, and WILDNESS. Justin lives in St. Louis. Come see about him at justinphillipreed.com.

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