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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 Mark Poucher.

Mahogany L. Browne is a writer, organizer & educator. Currently, the Artistic Director of Urban Word NYC, Browne has received literary fellowships from Agnes Gund, Air Serenbe, Cave Canem, Poets House, & Rauschenberg. She is the author of Woke Baby Black Girl Magic (Roaring Brook/Macmillan), Kissing Caskets (Yes Yes Books), & Dear Twitter (Penmanship Books). She resides in Brooklyn, NY.

Other poems by this author