Saturday, March 31, 2018

Easter Morning by William Stafford


Easter Morning
 
Maybe someone comes to the door and says,
“Repent,” and you say, “Come on in,” and it’s
Jesus. That’s when all you ever did, or said,
or even thought, suddenly wakes up again and
sings out, “I’m still here,” and you know it’s true.
You just shiver alive and are left standing
there suddenly brought to account: saved.
 
Except, maybe that someone says, “I’ve got a deal
for you.” And you listen, because that’s how
you’re trained – they told you, “Always hear both sides.”
So then the slick voice can sell you anything, even
Hell, which is what you’re getting by listening.
Well, what should you do? I’d say always go to
the door, yes, but keep the screen locked. Then,
while you hold the Bible in one hand, lean forward
and say carefully, “Jesus?” 

 

Friday, March 30, 2018

When the War Is Over by W. S. Merwin


When the War Is Over

When the war is over
We will be proud of course the air will be
Good for breathing at last
The water will have been improved the salmon
And the silence of heaven will migrate more perfectly
The dead will think the living are worth it we will know
Who we are
And we will all enlist again

 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

[Dear Angry Mob] by Joshua Beckman


[Dear Angry Mob]

Dear Angry Mob,
 
Oak Wood Trail is closed to you. We
feel it unnecessary to defend our position,
for we have always thought of ourselves
(and rightly, I venture) as a haven for
those seeking a quiet and solitary
contemplation. We are truly sorry
for the inconvenience.
 
Signed,
 
                                 Ranger Lil
 
 
PS            Ofttimes as the day ends
                      on a wet bed of yellow leaves
                            or the sky densens gray and dark
                 I am brought to imagine
                      the growing disquiet
                             in the hearts of my countrymen 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Icarus Does the Dishes by Tommye Blount


Icarus Does the Dishes

It leaves a mark when I fall
on the floor of my father’s kitchen.
Only a few days it’s been
of lifting him up from one place,
then putting him down somewhere else,
then driving to work for the late shift
while a nurse looks after him
for five hours, three times a week—
all we can afford. There is no choice;
sometimes, I have to leave him
alone. I ignore the soreness
of the bruise taking shape on my ass,
because these dishes won’t clean themselves
and Father hasn’t had his bath. It embarrasses us,
especially the rolling back of his foreskin,
the veins like tiny stitches on the inside
of a minotaur’s mask, so I let him wash that part
while I look away. He does not see me
like this, on the floor. I’m twenty-five
and agile, it is no accident, but
a tantrum. I throw the dishes—shards
all around me like a constellation
of stars for which I have no names.
We are lost. What have I done,
I’m thinking now, in telling the hospital
I can do this; I can manage just fine.
In the next room, through the wall,
he asks me if I’m OK;
if I need him to do anything?
Please die, I whisper then sweep
the stars, turn back toward the sun
soaking in the gray water.
  
 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Someone by Howard Moss


Someone
 
You watch the night like a material
Slowly being crammed into a tube of rooms;
It showers into gunshot, pepper, dew,
As if a hand had squeezed it at one end,
Is blank as innocence when daylight comes
Projecting sunlit patches on the wall
That fade. Too much is going on, too much
Of life, you say, for you to live alone
On top of an old tenement, on a train
That might start off sometime, but never does.
Your view is gone. Turn around, and boom!,
A park appears between two fixed ideas
Whose narrow aperture of sky in time
Will house the slums of 1989 . . .
 
Now New York is feigning its gray dark
London winter. Invisible uptown
Is out there somewhere, raining on its own.
Palmed in the dusty pane, a circle bares
A scene that seems reprinted from the past:
A man with a dog is walking very fast
Along a path among the stunted trees
Of the little square below. He disappears. 

Monday, March 26, 2018

Power by Audre Lorde


Power

The difference between poetry and rhetoric
is being ready to kill
yourself
instead of your children.

I am trapped on a desert of raw gunshot wounds
and a dead child dragging his shattered black
face off the edge of my sleep
blood from his punctured cheeks and shoulders
is the only liquid for miles
and my stomach
churns at the imagined taste while
my mouth splits into dry lips
without loyalty or reason
thirsting for the wetness of his blood
as it sinks into the whiteness
of the desert where I am lost
without imagery or magic
trying to make power out of hatred and destruction
trying to heal my dying son with kisses
only the sun will bleach his bones quicker.

A policeman who shot down a ten year old in Queens
stood over the boy with his cop shoes in childish blood
and a voice said “Die you little motherfucker” and
there are tapes to prove it. At his trial
this policeman said in his own defense
“I didn't notice the size nor nothing else
only the color”. And
there are tapes to prove that, too.

Today that 37 year old white man
with 13 years of police forcing
was set free
by eleven white men who said they were satisfied
justice had been done
and one Black Woman who said
“They convinced me” meaning
they had dragged her 4'10'' black Woman's frame
over the hot coals
of four centuries of white male approval
until she let go
the first real power she ever had
and lined her own womb with cement
to make a graveyard for our children.

I have not been able to touch the destruction
within me.
But unless I learn to use
the difference between poetry and rhetoric
my power too will run corrupt as poisonous mold
or lie limp and useless as an unconnected wire
and one day I will take my teenaged plug
and connect it to the nearest socket
raping an 85 year old white woman
who is somebody's mother
and as I beat her senseless and set a torch to her bed
a greek chorus will be singing in 3/4 time
“Poor thing. She never hurt a soul. What beasts they are.”

 

Late Fragment by Raymond Carver


Late Fragment
 
And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

only the crossing counts by C. D. Wright


only the crossing counts

It's not how we leave one's life. How go off
the air. You never know do you. You think you're ready
for anything; then it happens, and you're not. You're really
not. The genesis of an ending, nothing
but a feeling, a slow movement, the dusting
of furniture with a remnant of the revenant's shirt.
Seeing the candles sink in their sockets; we turn
away, yet the music never quits. The fire kisses our face.
O phthsis, o lotharian dead eye, no longer
will you gaze on the baize of the billiard table. No more
shooting butter dishes out of the sky. Scattering light.
Between snatches of poetry and penitence you left
the brumal wood of men and women. Snow drove
the butterflies home. You must know
how it goes, known all along what to expect,
sooner or later … the faded cadence of anonymity.
Frankly, my dear, frankly, my dear, frankly

 

Friday, March 23, 2018

The One Thing That Can Save America by John Ashbery


The One Thing That Can Save America
 
Is anything central?
Orchards flung out on the land,
Urban forests, rustic plantations, knee-high hills?
Are place names central?
Elm Grove, Adcock Corner, Story Book Farm?
As they concur with a rush at eye level
Beating themselves into eyes which have had enough
Thank you, no more thank you.
And they come on like scenery mingled with darkness
The damp plains, overgrown suburbs,
Places of known civic pride, of civil obscurity.
 
These are connected to my version of America
But the juice is elsewhere.
This morning as I walked out of your room
After breakfast crosshatched with
Backward and forward glances, backward into light,
Forward into unfamiliar light,
Was it our doing, and was it
The material, the lumber of life, or of lives
We were measuring, counting?
A mood soon to be forgotten
In crossed girders of light, cool downtown shadow
In this morning that has seized us again?
 
I know that I braid too much on my own
Snapped-off perceptions of things as they come to me.
They are private and always will be.
Where then are the private turns of event
Destined to bloom later like golden chimes
Released over a city from a highest tower?
The quirky things that happen to me, and I tell you,
And you know instantly what I mean?
What remote orchard reached by winding roads
Hides them? Where are these roots?
 
It is the lumps and trials
That tell us whether we shall be known
And whether our fate can be exemplary, like a star.
All the rest is waiting
For a letter that never arrives,
Day after day, the exasperation
Until finally you have ripped it open not knowing what it is,
The two envelope halves lying on a plate.
The message was wise, and seemingly
Dictated a long time ago, but its time has still
Not arrived, telling of danger, and the mostly limited
Steps that can be taken against danger
Now and in the future, in cool yards,
In quiet small houses in the country,
Our country, in fenced areas, in cool shady streets.
  
 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Tea at the Palaz of Hoon by Wallace Stevens


Tea at the Palaz of Hoon

Not less because in purple I descended
The western day through what you called
The loneliest air, not less was I myself.

What was the ointment sprinkled on my beard?
What were the hymns that buzzed beside my ears?
What was the sea whose tide swept through me there?

Out of my mind the golden ointment rained,
And my ears made the blowing hymns they heard.
I was myself the compass of that sea:

I was the world in which I walked, and what I saw
Or heard or felt came not but from myself;
And there I found myself more truly and more strange.

 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Deception Story by Solmaz Sharif


Deception Story

Friends describe my DISPOSITION

as stoic. Like a dead fish, an ex said. DISTANCE

is a funny drug and used to make me a DISTRESSED PERSON,

one who cried in bedrooms and airports. Once I bawled so hard at the border, even the man with the stamps and holster said Don’t cry. You’ll be home soon. My DISTRIBUTION

over the globe debated and set to quota. A nation can only handle so many of me. DITCHING

class, I break into my friend’s dad’s mansion and swim in the Beverly Hills pool in a borrowed T-shirt. A brief DIVERSION.

My body breaking the chlorinated surface makes it, momentarily, my house, my DIVISION

of driveway gate and alarm codes, my dress-rehearsed DOCTRINE

of pool boys and ping pong and water delivered on the backs of sequined Sparkletts trucks. Over here, DOLLY,

an agent will call out, then pat the hair at your hot black DOME.

After explaining what she will touch, backs of the hands at the breasts and buttocks, the hand goes inside my waistband and my heart goes DORMANT.

A dead fish. The last female assist I decided to hit on. My life in the American Dream is a DOWNGRADE,

a mere DRAFT

of home. Correction: it satisfies as DRAG.

It is, snarling, what I carve of it alone.

 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Today Is Work by Ben Purkert

Today Is Work
 
I’m searching for the right verb
for a dead frog. I want something
large but not so full it floods
my eyes. The verb should stand
on its own without support
from viewers like you & you
really are a viewer, it’s just
I’m concealed by a series of
tall buildings & significant life
events. If I reach you, call it
lifting a finger & driving it
along your skull. I like surgery
to be light. I like a cradle
overflowing with baby gifts &
stuffed-animal aliens, lime-green
to the touch. I’m really happy
for you, for your offscreen
special effects. I want you
exploding like a bridge.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Winter by Marie Ponsot


Winter

I don’t know what to say to you, neighbor,
as you shovel snow from your part of our street 
neat in your Greek black. I’ve waited for 
chance to find words; now, by chance, we meet.

We took our boys to the same kindergarten, 
thirteen years ago when our husbands went.
Both boys hated school, dropped out feral, dropped in 
to separate troubles. You shift snow fast, back bent, 
but your boy killed himself, six days dead.

My boy washed your wall when the police were done. 
He says, “We weren’t friends?” and shakes his head, 
“I told him it was great he had that gun,”
and shakes. I shake, close to you, close to you. 
You have a path to clear, and so you do.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Boy in a Stolen Evening Gown by Saeed Jones


Boy in a Stolen Evening Gown
 
In this field of thistle, I am the improbable
lady. How I wear the word: sequined weight
snagging my saunter into overgrown grass, blonde
split-end blades. I waltz in an acre of bad wigs.

Sir who is no one, sir who is yet to come, I need you
to undo this zipped back, trace the chiffon
body I’ve borrowed. See how I switch my hips

for you, dry grass cracking under my pretend
high heels? Call me and I’m at your side,
one wildflower behind my ear. Ask me
and I’ll slip out of this softness, the dress

a black cloud at my feet. I could be the boy
wearing nothing, a negligee of gnats. 

 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

October by Louise Glück


October

1.

Is it winter again, is it cold again,
didn’t Frank just slip on the ice,
didn’t he heal, weren’t the spring seeds planted

didn’t the night end,
didn’t the melting ice
flood the narrow gutters

wasn’t my body
rescued, wasn’t it safe

didn’t the scar form, invisible
above the injury

terror and cold,
didn’t they just end, wasn’t the back garden
harrowed and planted–

I remember how the earth felt, red and dense,
in stiff rows, weren’t the seeds planted,
didn’t vines climb the south wall

I can’t hear your voice
for the wind’s cries, whistling over the bare ground

I no longer care
what sound it makes

when I was silenced, when did it first seem
pointless to describe that sound

what it sounds like can’t change what it is–

didn’t the night end, wasn’t the earth
safe when it was planted

didn’t we plant the seeds,
weren’t we necessary to the earth,

the vines, were they harvested?

2.

Summer after summer has ended,
balm after violence:
it does me no good
to be good to me now;
violence has changed me.

Daybreak. The low hills shine
ochre and fire, even the fields shine.
I know what I see; sun that could be
the August sun, returning
everything that was taken away —

You hear this voice? This is my mind’s voice;
you can’t touch my body now.
It has changed once, it has hardened,
don’t ask it to respond again.

A day like a day in summer.
Exceptionally still. The long shadows of the maples
nearly mauve on the gravel paths.
And in the evening, warmth. Night like a night in summer.

It does me no good; violence has changed me.
My body has grown cold like the stripped fields;
now there is only my mind, cautious and wary,
with the sense it is being tested.

Once more, the sun rises as it rose in summer;
bounty, balm after violence.
Balm after the leaves have changed, after the fields
have been harvested and turned.

Tell me this is the future,
I won’t believe you.
Tell me I’m living,
I won’t believe you.

3.

Snow had fallen. I remember
music from an open window.

Come to me, said the world.
This is not to say
it spoke in exact sentences
but that I perceived beauty in this manner.

Sunrise. A film of moisture
on each living thing. Pools of cold light
formed in the gutters.

I stood
at the doorway,
ridiculous as it now seems.

What others found in art,
I found in nature. What others found
in human love, I found in nature.
Very simple. But there was no voice there.

Winter was over. In the thawed dirt,
bits of green were showing.

Come to me, said the world. I was standing
in my wool coat at a kind of bright portal —
I can finally say
long ago; it gives me considerable pleasure. Beauty
the healer, the teacher —

death cannot harm me
more than you have harmed me,
my beloved life.

4.

The light has changed;
middle C is tuned darker now.
And the songs of morning sound over-rehearsed. —

This is the light of autumn, not the light of spring.
The light of autumn: you will not be spared.

The songs have changed; the unspeakable
has entered them.

This is the light of autumn, not the light that says
I am reborn.

Not the spring dawn: I strained, I suffered, I was delivered.
This is the present, an allegory of waste.

So much has changed. And still, you are fortunate:
the ideal burns in you like a fever.
Or not like a fever, like a second heart.

The songs have changed, but really they are still quite beautiful.
They have been concentrated in a smaller space, the space of the mind.
They are dark, now, with desolation and anguish.

And yet the notes recur. They hover oddly
in anticipation of silence.
The ear gets used to them.
The eye gets used to disappearances.

You will not be spared, nor will what you love be spared.

A wind has come and gone, taking apart the mind;
it has left in its wake a strange lucidity.

How privileged you are, to be passionately
clinging to what you love;
the forfeit of hope has not destroyed you.

Maestro, doloroso:

This is the light of autumn; it has turned on us.
Surely it is a privilege to approach the end
still believing in something.

5.

It is true that there is not enough beauty in the world.
It is also true that I am not competent to restore it.
Neither is there candor, and here I may be of some use.

I am
at work, though I am silent.

The bland

misery of the world
bounds us on either side, an alley

lined with trees; we are

companions here, not speaking,
each with his own thoughts;

behind the trees, iron
gates of the private houses,
the shuttered rooms

somehow deserted, abandoned,

as though it were the artist’s
duty to create
hope, but out of what? what?

the word itself
false, a device to refute
perception—At the intersection,

ornamental lights of the season.

I was young here. Riding
the subway with my small book
as though to defend myself against

the same world:

you are not alone,
the poem said,
in the dark tunnel.

6.

The brightness of the day becomes
the brightness of the night;
the fire becomes the mirror.

My friend the earth is bitter; I think
sunlight has failed her.
Bitter or weary, it is hard to say.

Between herself and the sun,
something has ended.
She wants, now, to be left alone;
I think we must give up
turning to her for affirmation.

Above the fields,
above the roofs of the village houses,
the brilliance that made all life possible
becomes the cold stars.

Lie still and watch:
they give nothing but ask nothing.

From within the earth’s
bitter disgrace, coldness and barrenness

my friend the moon rises:
she is beautiful tonight, but when is she not beautiful?

 

Friday, March 16, 2018

Legendary by Nicole Sealey


Legendary
 
You want me to say who I am and all of that?
                Pepper LaBeija
 
What girl gives up an opportunity
to talk about herself? Not I. Not today.
I won’t bore you with my biography—
just a few highlights from my résumé.
I don’t aspire; I’m whom one aspires to.
The most frequently asked question isn’t
WWJD? It’s what would Pepper LaBeija do?
Really the question should be what hasn’t
she done? I’ve been walking now two decades
and got more grand prizes than all the rest.
I hate to brag, but I’m a one-man parade,
Jehovah in drag, the church in a dress.
Outside these walls I may be irrelevant,
but here I’m the Old and the New Testament.
  
 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Theatre Impressions by Wisława Szymborska


Theatre Impressions
 
For me the tragedy’s most important act is the sixth:
the raising of the dead from the stage’s battlegrounds,
the straightening of wigs and fancy gowns,
removing knives from stricken breasts,
taking nooses from lifeless necks,
lining up among the living
to face the audience.
 
The bows, both solo and ensemble—
the pale hand on the wounded heart,
the curtsies of the hapless suicide,
the bobbing of the chopped-off head.
 
The bows in pairs—
rage extends its arm to meekness,
the victim’s eyes smile at the torturer,
the rebel indulgently walks beside the tyrant.
 
Eternity trampled by the golden slipper’s toe.
Redeeming values swept aside with the swish of a
     wide-brimmed hat.
The unrepentant urge to start all over tomorrow.
 
Now enter, single file, the hosts who died early on,
in Acts 3 and 4, or between scenes.
The miraculous return of all those lost without a trace.
 
The thought that they’ve been waiting patiently offstage
without taking off their makeup
or their costumes
moves me more than all the tragedy’s tirades.
 
But the curtain’s fall is the most uplifting part,
the things you see before it hits the floor:
here one hand quickly reaches for a flower,
there another hand picks up a fallen sword.
Only then, one last, unseen, hand
does its duty
and grabs me by the throat.

(Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanaugh

 

Friday, March 9, 2018

Heavy by Hieu Minh Nguyen


Heavy
 
The narrow clearing down to the river
I walk alone, out of breath
 
my body catching on each branch.
Small children maneuver around me.
 
Often, I want to return to my old body
a body I also hated, but hate less
 
given knowledge.
Sometimes my friends—my friends
 
who are always beautiful & heartbroken
look at me like they know
 
I will die before them.
I think the life I want
 
is the life I have, but how can I be sure?
There are days when I give up on my body
 
but not the world. I am alive.
I know this. Alive now
 
to see the world, to see the river
rupture everything with its light.
  
 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Family Home by Adam Zagajewski


Family Home
 
You come here like a stranger,
but this is your family home.
The currants, the apple and cherry trees don’t know you.
One noble tree readies
a new brood of walnuts in peace,
while the sun, like a worried first-grader,
diligently colors in the shadows.
The dining room pretends it is a crypt,
and doesn’t give out one familiar echo—
the old conversations haven’t lingered.
There, where your life doubtless
began, someone else’s television stutters.
But the cellar’s been collecting darknesses—
all the nights since you left
are snarled like the yarn of an old sweater
in which wild cats have nested.
You come here like a stranger,
but this is your family home.
 
(Translated by Clare Cavanaugh) 

 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Dancing with Strom by Nikky Finney


Dancing with Strom 

            I want to tell you, ladies and gentlemen, there’s not enough
            troops in the army to force the southern people to break
            down segregation and accept the Negro [pronounced Nigra]
            into our theatres, into our swimming pools, into our homes,
            and into our churches.
                                    —Strom Thurmond, South Carolina
                                    Senator and Presidential Candidate
                                         for the States’ Rights Party, 1948

            I said, “I’m gonna fight Thurmond from the mountain to
            the sea.” 
                                    —Modjeska Monteith Simkins, Civil
                              Rights Matriarch, South Carolina, 1948

The youngest has been married off.

He is as tall as Abraham Lincoln. Here, on his
wedding day, he flaunts the high spinning laugh
of a newly freed slave. I stand above him, just
off the second-floor landing, watching
the celebration unfold.

Uncle-cousins, bosom buddies, convertible cars
of nosy paramours, strolling churlish penny-
pinchers pour onto the mansion estate. Below,
Strom Thurmond is dancing with my mother.

The favorite son of South Carolina has already
danced with the giddy bride and the giddy bride’s
mother. More women await: Easter dressy,
drenched in caramel, double exposed, triple cinched,
lined up, leggy, ready.

I refuse to leave the porch.

If I walk down I imagine he will extend his
hand, assume I am next in his happy darky line,
#427 on his dance card. His history
and mine, burnt cork and blackboard chalk,
concentric, pancaked, one face, two histories,
slow dragging, doing the nasty.

My father knows all this.

Daddy’s Black Chief Justice legs straddle the boilerplate
carapace of the CSS H. L. Hunley, lost Confederate
submarine, soon to be found just off the coast of
Charleston. He keeps it fully submerged by
applying the weight of every treatise he has
ever written against the death penalty of
South Carolina. Chanting “Briggs v. Elliott,”
he keeps the ironside door of the submarine shut.
No hands.

His eyes are a Black father’s beacon, search-
lights blazing for the married-off sons, and
on the unmarried, whale-eyed nose-in-book
daughter, born unmoored, quiet, yellow,
strategically placed under hospital lights to
fully bake. The one with the most to lose.

There will be no trouble. Still, he chain-
smokes. A burning stick of mint & Indian
leaf seesaws between his lips. He wants
me to remember that trouble is a fire that
runs like a staircase up then down. Even
on a beautiful day in June.

I remember the new research just out:
What the Negro gave America
Chapter 9,206:

Enslaved Africans gifted porches to North
America. Once off the boats they were told,
then made, to build themselves a place—to live.

They build the house that will keep them alive.

Rather than be the bloody human floret on
yet another southern tree, they imagine higher
ground. They build landings with floor enough
to see the trouble coming. Their arced imaginations
nail the necessary out into the floral air. On the
backs and fronts of twentypenny houses,
a watching place is made for the ones who will
come tipping with torch & hog tie through the
quiet woods, hoping to hang them as decoration
in the porcupine hair of longleaf.

The architecture of Black people is sui generis.
This is architecture dreamed by the enslaved:

Their design will be stolen.
Their wits will outlast gold.
My eyes seek historical rest from the kiss-
kiss theater below; Strom Thurmond’s
it’s-never-too-late-to-forgive-me chivaree.
I search the tops of yellow pine while my
fingers reach, catch, pinch my father’s
determined-to-rise smoke.

Long before AC African people did the
math: how to cool down the hot air of
South Carolina?

If I could descend, without being trotted
out by some roughrider driven by his
submarine dreams, this is what I’d take
my time and scribble into the three-tiered,
white créme wedding cake:

Filibuster. States’ Rights. The Grand Inquisition
of the great Thurgood Marshall. This wedding
reception would not have been possible without
the Civil Rights Act of 1957 (opposed by
you-know-who).

The Dixiecrat senator has not worn his
sandy seersucker fedora to the vows.
The top of Strom Thurmond’s bald head
reveals a birthmark tattooed in contrapposto
pose: Segregation Forever.
  
All my life he has been the face of hatred;
the blue eyes of the Confederate flag,
the pasty bald of white men pulling wooly
heads up into the dark skirts of trees,
the sharp, slobbering, amber teeth of
German shepherds, still clenched inside
the tissue-thin, (still marching), band-leader
legs of Black schoolteachers, the single-
minded pupae growing between the legs of
white boys crossing the tracks, ready to
force Black girls into fifth-grade positions,
Palmetto state-sanctioned sex 101.

I didn’t want to dance with him.

My young cousin arrives at my elbow.
Her beautiful lips the color of soft-skin
mangoes. She pulls, teasing the stitches
of my satin bridesmaid gown, “You better
go on down there and dance with Strom—
while he still has something left.”

I don’t tell her it is unsouthern for her
to call him by his first name, as if they
are familiar. I don’t tell her: To bear
witness to marriage is to believe that
everything moving through the sweet
wedding air can be confidently, left—
to Love.

I stand on the landing high above the
beginnings of Love, holding a plastic
champagne flute, drinking in the warm
June air of South Carolina. I hear my 
youngest brother’s top hat joy. Looking
down I find him, deep in the giddy crowd,
modern, integrated, interpretive.

For ten seconds I consider dancing with
Strom. His Confederate hands touch
every shoulder, finger, back that I love.
I listen to the sound of Black laughter
shimmying. All worry floats beyond
the gurgling submarine bubbles,
the white railing, every drop of 
champagne air.

I close my eyes and Uncle Freddie
appears out of a baby’s breath of fog.
(The dead are never porch bound.)
He moves with ease where I cannot. 
He walks out on the rice-thrown air,
heaving a lightning bolt instead of
a wave. Suddenly, there is a table set,
complete with 1963 dining room stars,
they twinkle twinkle up & behind him.
Thelonious, Martin, Malcolm, Nina,
Dakota, all mouths Negro wide &
open have come to sing me down.
His tattered almanac sleeps curled like
a wintering slug in his back pocket.
His dark Dogon eyes jet to the scene
below, then zoom past me until they are
lost in the waning sugilite sky. Turning
in the shadows of the wheat fields,
he whispers a truth plucked from
the foreword tucked in his back pocket:
Veritas: Black people will forgive you
quicker than you can say Orangeburg
Massacre.

History does not keep books on the
handiwork of slaves. But the enslaved
who built this Big House, long before
I arrived for this big wedding, knew
the power of a porch.

This native necessity of nailing down
a place, for the cooling off of air,
in order to lift the friendly, the kindly,
the so politely, the in-love-ly, jubilant,
into the arms of the grand peculiar,
for the greater good of
the public spectacular:

us 
giving us
away.