J.T. Whitehead

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Activism, American Style, 2018
I turned on the news.
Children are being taken away from their parents.
I pull the tab.
I drink the beer.
I go out on the porch.
I light a cigarette.
I’m upset about the news.

My ex-wife runs a non-profit.
Dedicated to the memory of Kurt Vonnegut.
They’re making a movie.
About a relatively unexceptional one-percenter.
They’re asking for money.
I pull the tab.
I drink the beer.
I go out on the porch.
I light a cigarette.
I think about Elliot Rosewater.

A man rides by on a bike while I am smoking a cigarette.
A man rides by while I am thinking about smoking too much.
A man asks for a cigarette while I am smoking.
And thinking about quitting.
I give him a cigarette.
He asks if he can pay me for it.
I tell him, no, I’m a Government attorney, and I’m not licensed to sell tobacco.

The moon tonight is reflected in my eyes.
It reminds me of God.
Because I cannot see my eyes.

I am living in a new apartment.
Because of my divorce.
My neighbors walk by my place on their way home every day, every night.
I have met them.
I cannot remember all of their names.
I’m white, and they are all black, and that is not why I cannot remember their names.
I just can’t.
There are too many of them, these neighbors.  Of mine.  And they are mine.

I have been an attorney for 20 years.
I have been paid to remember words, and I am good at it.
But I have never been good with names.
I still called the uncle named “Larry” by the name of “Roger.”
I’m too scatterbrained.
I’m going through a lot right now.
The mother, whose name is Andrea, has been diagnosed.
She’s holding a head-shaving party.
They are all going to shave their heads.

Andrea and the others in her family passed me by out on my porch.
I was smoking, of course.
Her head was shaved.

They are a happy family.
They pass by my porch like deep, dark memories
Of my own, now gone.
When they walk by my porch,
I imagine flipping through the photo album.

I think about it. 
I think about shaving my head.
I shave my face instead. 

Tomorrow . . .
I will read all of this again before shredding it.
I know that this is such a weak work. 
But I will want to get Roger’s name right.

I mean Larry’s. 
Get Larry’s name right.


I’m sorry
I can’t take your
Call right now
I’m currently away
From my desk
I’m sorry
But please leave
A message
& Someone
Will answer your call
As soon
As possible.


J.T. Whitehead lives in Indianapolis with his two sons, Daniel and Joseph. Whitehead wrote his first poetry at the age of 7.  His sons, Daniel and Joseph, are older than 7.  They live theirs.