(Note: This is a poem I wrote and first performed November 16, 2017. It has new resonance for me now, but I present it here without further comment. – sew)
BILL COSBY BROUGHT ME INTO THIS WORLD BUT I HAVE TAKEN HIM OUT
Bill Cosby taught me,
lying on the floor of a living room
in front of a stereo built like a sarcophagus
that my mother had a laugh reserved
for non-saint situations
I have been chasing ever since.
When I failed college, I let down my mother
and Bill Cosby, in that order.
Bill Cosby taught me what football was;
showed me why whuppins
were not the end of a conversation
but the beginning of a relationship
whose love you will not fathom
and I cannot explain;
Bill Cosby taught me to love myself the way
white people love me: as subject matter;
the way they love jazz: imperialistically;
the way they love mammy cookie jars: devoutly.
So I love myself like mammy cookie jars
stuff myself with they sweetness
smile, never let on that I have smeared
every one of these cookies with this servant tongue
and Bill Cosby has taught me to be a better slave.
Pick the whole field clean with all your teeth.
Bill Cosby is the greatest actor of our generation.
Bill Cosby is dead to me so soon
to when it was going to happen anyway
that I can’t even get it up to grieve.
The Bill Cosby I see now is a zombie,
is not the teacher I have known
but the realest monster
have ever let into my home.
Bill Cosby showed me junkyard genius,
how a bedspring could become a harp
if you touch it just so,
how a radiator could be an accordion,
a swollen belly drummed like a timpani,
how the anything of nothing
could become everything to anyone.
Bill Cosby taught me the funkiest scat ever uttered,
a hickey-burr turned to gibberish
in my mind as if I have been clouded
while guilty of nothing more than thirst.
Where there is smoke there is fire.
Where there is a forest fire there is a teacup.
I would cast every album onto the flame
if you could give me back my Fat Albert Saturdays.
Bill Cosby taught me how to tell this story:
drop a little of this, take on a little of that,
be a little drunk off of yourself.
Somewhere Bill Cosby is buying NBC
to make a television show about
all of the women he must adore,
a show whose pitch is that he has a different wife
each week with the same name
he wants me to believe he loves for her mind,
and it’s a hit. Bill Cosby has done it again.
Bill Cosby has recaptured Thursday nights,
made it a holiday again Football Sundays special
And as we celebrate the golden touch
of America’s favorite dad he pours me coffee
and my mind is telling me no
but my body is also saying I’d rather not, sir.
Bill Cosby is dead to me and I have spun
every groove of every record for any truth,
found him wanting, found myself letting go,
found myself wishing my mother
and I had just talked for once
instead of listening to a record
of someone we could never know,
pretending it was a better teachable moment than love.
My mother and I have said nothing about Bill Cosby
since all of his jokes have died on the vine.
It’s as if she’s gotten divorced all over again,
another plate disappearing from the table.
I think I am a good son for saying nothing.
But Bill Cosby taught me that too.
Bill Cosby taught me that silence is innocence,
that if no one can say a thing then it didn’t happen.
Bill Cosby taught me that where there is smoke there is
a woman running into the street for a cab
who does not know her name anymore
and who wishes, more than anything,
to be thirsty again.