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excerpt from “Nation Induced Disorder”

By Mahogany L. Browne

It is easy to singularly define people by the worst thing that they have ever done, but it becomes more difficult to imagine what we would want the world to do if it were us.
                                                                                                 -- Clint Smith

if my mother were ever convicted for her addiction         like my father               I wonder
who I would be robbing now

               the data from the Fragile Families Study say
               my kind of survival displays more behavioral problems
               & early juvenile delinquencies

I say:     you right                        I rode into the night w/a pistol in my grey hoody        – spitting image
                             of my father:

                             his nickname akin to boom
                             his red skin the only thing I remember
                             him towering over me   black hair        red bloodshot eyes

already running
already gone

this is the closest I’ve ever been to becoming
a woman with a number for a name
it’s easier than one might think
to lose yourself so quickly in search of country


Marathon runs of Wentworth
Mist the room like smoke clouds
& I know TV is only TV to someone
That ain’t never been forced to look
Outside their own heartbreak before

What’s a cliff dive to a black man
hustled by his own country?

He earns 92 cents an hour
& my tuition still ain’t free
The woman behind the financial aid counter
Asks me what my father makes

I say:
Furniture for the dorms here
I say:
Grandfatherless children
I say:
I don’t know
I don’t know
I don’t know
Who he is




Listen as Mahogany L. Browne reads an excerpt from "Nation Induced Disorder."

Added: Monday, March 18, 2019  /  Used with permission. This Split This Rock poem is presented as part of "What Is It, Then, Between Us?: Poetry & Democracy," the third annual programming initiative of the Poetry Coalition. This national initiative is made possible in part by a grant from the Ford Foundation secured by the Academy of American Poets.
Mahogany L. Browne
Photo by Jennie Bergqvist.

Mahogany L. Browne is a writer, organizer & educator. Executive Director of Bowery Poetry Club & Artistic Director of Urban Word NYC & Poetry Coordinator at St. Francis College. Browne has received fellowships from Agnes Gund, Air Serenbe, Cave Canem, Poets House, Mellon Research & Rauschenberg. She is the author of Woke: A Young Poets Call to Justice, Woke Baby & Black Girl Magic (Macmillan), Kissing Caskets (Yes Yes Books) & Dear Twitter (Penmanship Books). She is also the founder of the Woke Baby Book Fair (a nationwide diversity literature campaign) & as an Arts for Justice grantee, is completing her first book of essays on mass incarceration, investigating its impact on women and children. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Browne was invited as a Featured Poet for Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness (March 26-28, 2020) in Washington, DC which was cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Split This Rock began a virtual poetry reading series in May 2020 which included a reading by Mahogany L. Browne, Kimberly Blaeser, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, and Marilyn Chin on May 29, 2020.

Other poems by this author