the louderARTS Project

Adam Falkner

Adam Falkner is a multiple-time member and coach of national poetry slam teams representing the youth community of Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan, and infamous Nuyorican Poets Café in New York City, which recently placed 5th in the nation at the 2008 National Poetry Slam in Madison, Wisconsin.  Adam’s work has appeared in anthologies, magazines and academic journals, and his solo hip-hop LP (Control the Circle - 2005) has sold upwards of 5,000 copies. He and his students participated in the filming of an upcoming HBO documentary project focusing on Brave New Voices 2008, the National Youth Poetry Slam Festival in Washington, D.C. A collection of his latest poems and essays is forthcoming.

Adam is a National Associate for the Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) and the recipient of a National Martin Luther King Jr. Spirit Award in higher education.  He currently teachers 11th and 12th grade English and Creative Writing at PROGRESS High School in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and is pursuing a Masters degree in Secondary English Education.  Adam is a graduate of The University of Michigan, where in addition to earning a Bachelors degree in Creative Writing, he crafted his own independent academic concentration in the areas of Race Relations and Whiteness studies – the first of its kind at the university.  He currently lives in Brooklyn.  

 




for david lee:
a fellow teacher who, during my first month in the
classroom, was shot and killed on his way into work

passing
 
barely just above the bar
trembling and chin raised
is camouflage
for students in my class

it is safe
like ninth inning cleats up
dust clouds
(out or not
your dirty
and that's cool)

it is
acrobatic tap dance
tailored for the tongue
like "good hair"
like "almost"
like sewn on name brands

it is mimicking to fit like same-shade
non-border pieces
in a jigsaw
hidden and unassuming like
a bladed edge napping in 
flesh of an inner-cheek

what passing is not
 
is bullet through neck
on steps to the f train
or twitching like fly-bodies snared
against honey, it is not
the innards of a throat
gushing pulpy and black from the mouth
for a second hand watch, a pocket twenty crumpled
and church-to-work-week-graduated wingtips   
with a wife and two daughters in college, it is not
how a 40-year teaching career should end
gruesome
and alone
to the pitter-pat of rat feet over iron grate platforms
it is more like what storm clouds do
when the worst moves beyond what we can see

Dear Grand Street Faculty:
We regret to inform you
of the recent passing of David Lee.

For information regarding a memorial service,
please see the payroll secretary in room 209.

a memo
in the mailroom
two weeks late
      complete with
      scotch tape and
      spelling errors

costumed like the swallow and spit of
gentrification, call it what it ain't and
add bleach so the stains come loose
in the wash like sweater yarn

call it a passing
because
words like
"murder" and
"left for dead"
and "teachers being expendable"
and "lying because it's easier"
stink too much like the smoke
of something burning

reek too heavy like the rest of the story
like fatherless homes
and the manhood a gun gives

why the language demanded to
capture the way our blood bleeds
the hammers in our mouths
that we are taught to never bite become
brittle, loose steam, jam up

why our words seem to forget they can be stringless

when a murder ain't a murder
and it's just another happenstance 
and silence is the only needle needed
to stitch our lips together
from questioning the camouflage:

how my classrooms
          are beginning to blend immaculate
          with 16 year olds 
          chained to each other on
          a rickety old and overheated
          number nine bus
          upstate

how there are too many reasons as to
          why a boy becomes broken enough
          for the rush and weight of warm glock in hand
          to fill the void of having never been
          taught how to shave his face
          or how to compliment a women

and why the shards of his life 
          are kicked and spread apart like
          air force ones
          in a routine strip-search



© Adam Falkner


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