ask what


Ask What I’ve Been
Jamaal May

I think cast stiff
around ankle, plaster poured

into a chest-shaped mold.
I think wet cement.

I say stone, and you think pebble
in stream or marble

fountain or kimberlite.
I say gravel or grave

or ask me later. There are days
I mourn being built

from this. Made
of so much aggregate

and gravestone, so little
diamond and fountain water.

When I was a construction
crane, my balled fists

toppled buildings of boys.
I rifled through the pockets

of their ruins.
Ask what I’ve been. Detroit

is a stretch of highway littered
with windshield,

a boy picking the remains
of a window from his hair.

I say Detroit;
you think glass.

I say glass; you think atrium;
I say atrium beams

warped by heat;
think cathedral. My shoe soles

say stain. Glass between treads,
treads imprinted on gum.

Everything finds its bottom,
say the sewers.

Don’t come any closer,
begs a map of collapsed veins,

while the burnt-out colonial,
this empty lot,

and this alley-dark cavity
all say the shelter is sparse, yes,

but there is space here for bones—
a ribcage, brimming like yours.

Photo by Meta Zahren on Unsplash

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