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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 Review, Washington Square Review, and WILDNESS. Justin lives in St. Louis. Come see about him at

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