almost like

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Almost Like They Wanted It
Camille T. Dungy

Because she’d heard him laugh through new moon darkness
and she knew he’d fallen and she knew, before she turned,
he’d be crawling, like a crawdad, rock to loam—
because she tried to love the straight back and neck
he’d erected to recollect the man he’d been
before—because she found herself adding up his usefulness
like some kind of auctioneer—she showed him
the dark coils areoling both her breasts and all the ways
she bent and lifted, bent and lifted, steady, strong.
She let him believe he was past due for a harvest
and her hands were the right ones, now, to hold onto the scythe.

                                                        •

She made quick work of pleasure. The boysmile bunked down
in his eyes, she claimed. Her tongue found the place in his mouth
where the teeth were gone—where he’d hold his corncakes
until they grew soft enough to chew. History had bedded him
in all of this—his own history and failures not his own.
Before he’d tramped in she’d watched another man—a man she’d thought
she’d hated—watched his body opened, opened, opened until
blood had married brine. She’d watch that man be whipped into something
good for nothing more than fertilizing clay and she’d thought
buckshot would have been a brand of kindness if sprayed into him
just then. But even after his hard going, she did not miss him very much.
                                                        •
Anyone she chose could be shucked like surplus property tomorrow,
but that hadn’t been enough to warn her off of picking him that night.
Because she knew if she set her sight on nothing she’d get nothing
in return, she’d walked with him. But because the night progressed so
—because there were some clouds—no stars—no moon—he’d tripped
over the branch of a dead and down tree. In all that darkness,
there, without a moon, even then, she had not fallen. She thought
to say so, but she did not say so. She did nothing
but say she was sorry for him. She did not use her mouth
to say this. Could he not listen to her hands? They spoke softly,
articulating her condolences, to his torn and bleeding skin.

 

 

harlem night song

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Not a perfect image to go with the poem, but I loved this one when I discovered it.

Harlem Night Song
Langston Hughes

Come,
Let us roam the night together
Singing.

I love you.

Across
The Harlem roof-tops
Moon is shining.
Night sky is blue.
Stars are great drops
Of golden dew.

Down the street
A band is playing.

I love you.

Come,
Let us roam the night together
Singing.

consequence

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Coherence in Consequence
Claudia Rankine

Imagine them in black, the morning heat losing
within this day that floats. And always there is the
being, and the not-seeing on their way to—

The days they approach and their sharpest aches
will wrap experience until knowledge is translucent,
the frost on which they find themselves slipping.
Never mind the loose mindless grip of their forms
reflected in the eye-watering hues of the surface,
these two will survive in their capacity to meet, to
hold the other beneath the plummeting, in the
depths below each step full of avoidance. What
they create will be held up, will resume: the
appetite is bigger than joy. indestructible. for never
was it independent from who they are. who will be.

Were we ever to arrive at knowing the other as the
same pulsing compassion would break the most orthodox heart.

instructions

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Instructions
Rudy Francisco

Gather your mistakes,
rinse them with honesty
and self-reflection,

let dry until you
can see every choice
and the regret
becomes brittle,

cover the
entire surface
in forgiveness,

remind yourself
that you are human

and this too
is a gift.

split rock

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The Split Rock Prays to Whatever Broke It
Jacqui Germain
Rage is not to be avoided, diminished, belittled. Rage is God. Better believe my rage is seeped in love.” -Shira Erlichman

Let my anger be warm and ripe with love.
Let it reek of car crashes that we have all survived.
Let it breathe. Let it dance in my fists.
Let it collapse drunk and merry
across my knees, my bedspread.
Let my anger be a thick, bubbling bath
and the cool towel by the windowsill.
Let my anger stretch into a generous wingspan.
Let it be a split rock, a steady hammer,
a plank of wood that still remembers the whole tree.
Let it sweeten the milk, turn the mug steaming
hot against the freezing chatter in my teeth.
Let it be thick thick as a St. Louis summer.
Let it be thick and just as full of memory
and just as full of arched backs stretching the tired
out of their spines, and just as full of black,
and just as full of blues.
Let my anger be the city of St. Louis, fresh-faced,
looking in the mirror at all its pimples and stretch marks,
looking at all its hard beauty that belongs to itself only,
calling up Detroit, calling up Philly and all those cities saying,
Baby, let’s all go dancing. Let’s roll our windows down and sing.
Bring all your busted windows and overgrown lawns
and new coffee shops we can’t afford and the schools
closing or not and the baked empty lots and cellulite sidewalks
and bring all your dead musicians and we’ll make a night of it.
Let my anger be the celebration we were never
supposed to have because we were never
supposed to know we had anything
worth celebrating.

Photo by Adam Sherez on Unsplash

celebrate with me

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Won’t You Celebrate with Me?
Lucille Clifton

won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

passing love

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Passing Love
Langston Hughes

Because you are to me a song
I must not sing you over-long.

Because you are to me a prayer
I cannot say you everywhere.

Because you are to me a rose —
You will not stay when summer goes.

“I feel most colored when…”

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I Feel Most Colored When I Am Thrown Against a Sharp White Background
Morgan Parker

After Glenn Ligon after Zora Neale Hurston

Or, I feel sharp white.
Or, colored against.
Or, I am thrown. I am against. Or, when white I sharp. I color.
Quiet. Forget. My country is a boat.
I feel most colored when I swear to god.
I feel most colored when it is too late.
When I am captive
The last thing on my mind is death.
I tongue elegy.
I color green because green is the color of power.
I am growing two fruits.
I feel most colored when I am thrown against the sidewalk.
It is the last time I feel colored.
Stone is the name of the fruit.
I am a man I am a man I am a woman I am a man I am a woman I am protected and served.
I background my country.
My country sharp in my throat.
I pay taxes and I am a child and I grow into a bright fleshy fruit.
White bites: I stain the uniform.
I am thrown black typeface in a headline with no name.
Or, no one hears me.
I am thrown bone, “Unarmed.”
I feel most colored when my weapon is I.
When I get what I deserve.
When I can’t breathe.
When on television I shuffle and widen my eyes.
I feel most colored when I am thrown against a mattress, my tits my waist my ankles buried in.
White ash. Everyone claps.
I feel most colored when I am the punchline. When I am the trigger.
In the dawn, putrid yellow, I know what I am being told.
My country pisses on my grave.
My country bigger than god.
Elegy my country.
I feel most colored when I am collecting dust.
When I am impatient and sick. They use us to distract us.
My ears leak violet petals.
I sharpen them. I sharpen them again.
Everyone claps.

 

Oughta Be a Woman

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Oughta Be a Woman
June Jordan
Washing the floors to send you to college
Staying at home so you can feel safe
What do you think is the soul of her knowledge
What do you think that makes her feel safe

Biting her lips and lowering her eyes
To make sure there’s food on the table
What do you think would be her surprise
If the world was as willing as she’s able

Hugging herself in an old kitchen chair
She listens to your hurt and your rage
What do you think she knows of despair
What is the aching of age

The fathers, the children, the brothers
Turn to her and everybody white turns to her
What about her turning around
Alone in the everyday light

There oughta be a woman can break
Down, sit down, break down, sit down
Like everybody else call it quits on Mondays
Blues on Tuesdays, sleep until Sunday
Down, sit down, break down, sit down

A way outa no way is flesh outa flesh
Courage that cries out at night
A way outa no way is flesh outa flesh
Bravery kept outa sight
A way outa no way is too much to ask
Too much of a task for any one woman

ganymede

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Ganymede
Jericho Brown

A man trades his son for horses.
That’s the version I prefer. I like
The safety of it, no one at fault,
Everyone rewarded. God gets
The boy. The boy becomes
Immortal. His father rides until
Grief sounds as good as the gallop
Of an animal born to carry those
Who patrol and protect our inherited
Kingdom. When we look at myth
This way, nobody bothers saying
Rape. I mean, don’t you want God
To want you? Don’t you dream
Of someone with wings taking you
Up? And when the master comes
For our children, he smells
Like the men who own stables
In Heaven, that far terrain
Between Promise and Apology.
No one has to convince us.
The people of my country believe
We can’t be hurt if we can be bought.