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Frosty moonlight

filters through church-window prisms,

 

striking the cross,

 

the hungry one crying,

out of the dark—words to the Sacred.

In the dark, no one recalls the sparrows.

 

An old man dreams

about a cheeseburger and hot fries.

 

Where will he lay his head?

 

Left half dead, outside,

perhaps, through some oversight,

shivering and naked,

with no bowl of hot soup

to warm his belly.  Might as well be dead.

 

Holy candles flicker, as they burn,

the old man dreams a valid dream.

 

This poem is included in Washing the Color of Water Golden: A Hurricane Katrina Anthology.

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On the rock’s underside,

sleeping in the soft dirt,

the earlywigs

roll themselves into balls.

The scent of musty earth

floats upward,

and they scurry to get away—

 

wishing to live in peace.

 

How can I justify

this abruptness of sunlight?

 

Nothing is pure

among thin shadows.

A chill invades me,

and I cast the rock aside,

falling to my knees,

as though my action

might proclaim my innocence.

 

But who will listen

while I explain—

crying a plaintive cry

to a lonely field

where summer is dying?

Those grubs lie still.

 

Still.  With no premonition

of autumnal joy.

 

Those grubs lie still

beneath the lifted stone.

 

first published in Domicile

I stopped for water by an ancient tree,

smoldering in a war-torn land.

 

It was afternoon, when

a fierce downpour of welcome rain

 

coated the fire-damaged trunk.  Seated,

the refuge peered—flesh soiled—

 

with blackened eyes through

sunken sockets.  Leafless tree limbs

 

failed to serve as shelter.  The rain left hair,

clothing pasted immodestly to the body

 

and me shivering.  Fears mingled in

indomitable air.  Then—standing to walk away—

 

she nuzzled her infant to an empty breast,

the older baby to her starving frame.

 

Sunset followed:

predictable, like that day’s river of mud.

 

first published in Black Bear Review

My second chapbook, Paper Snowflakes, is forthcoming from Southern Hum sometime this fall.

The night

wears a dark curtain.

 

The teasing moon

aborts its gayety, riding white-

tipped waves.

 

And never did stars

seem so dim,

so far away—

 

silent as mother-of-

pearl, coating the walls

of mollusk’s shells, hiding

 

where they wait and wait

like lovers

sharing a stolen kiss, un-

 

discovered.  The nighttime

shadows the earth,

and, perhaps, why

 

is the least of it.

first published in Domicile

One morning the wind brought me flowers—

white and light—

the blossoms of a Bradford Pear.  The same wind

the next day teased my senses with pollen.

  

But I don’t deny those tender violets—

that hid in the sparseness of springtime grass

in front of the forsythia bush—

a place to float on water with pear-blossoms,

  

in a small bowl of Depression Ware pink

from my grandmother’s kitchen to a granddaughter

she never knew.  O, how I loved the sweet peas

she left to thrive on the backyard fence.

Kyle on Saturday, and Kurt today!

I heard a great band, The Afro-Semitic Experience at St. Phillips Moravian Church last night then came home and watched the Busch Race (recorded from earlier in the day), and Kyle Busch won.

Just got an e-mail from Gigi Parent that contained the following, concerning an event at Reynolda House in Winston-Salem:

Tuesday, March 28, 5:30–6:30 p.m.
GALLERY TALK:
Historian Anthony Parent
Admission is $5 (A reception follows.)
Anthony Parent is a professor at Wake Forest University whose research focuses on the early history of African Americans. His most recent book is Foul Means: The Formation of a Slave Society in Virginia, 1660–1740.
Dr. Parent will speak on Jack Johnson, the first black world heavyweight boxing champion, whose controversial celebrity inspired works of art in Moving Pictures.

Tony Parent was my thesis advisor at Wake Forest.  He’s a fantastic teacher, speaker, and writer.  My poem, “On the Night When Freedom Came,” published on TimBookTu, is dedicated to him.

On the Night When Freedom Came

—for Dr. Anthony S. Parent Jr.

Five of us, including you, Tony,

wandered in the cold woods
where the African dead belong.
The crooning wind blew its

falsetto oo—near the gully, not far from

the tree the slaves planted,

where Aunt Kitty steals away to Jesus,
sways—kneeling in dirt—
hands to heaven, as her singing
mixes joy with sorrow, the way spirituals
do. Aunt Kitty, who lived in the attic
above the kitchen, is the great-
grandmother of lawyer Jay Reynolds,
who came from Critz to join us for dinner—
vegetables, too salty for my taste—
and for the tour that followed.
Remember?  We stood in fading light
beside her wood cook-stove.  I was wearing
new clothes, bought for the occasion,
a turtleneck under a sweater, jeans,
and gazing upward—hoping to catch a detail
like the rustle of her petticoat between the
raftersto make her real.
 
I read my longest poem
just as darkness filled the arbor:
the one about faces and their importance
in terms of story.  You explained
the meaning of the pot
and how the slaves turned it on its side,
catching the sounds of their
dangerous praise.  You called your speech,
“Life in the Cabins,” and, in your wisdom,
used words from corn-shuck songs.
You said you wouldn’t sing
but joined the choir, your words under-
girded by great drops of sweat
as great as the face I saw on that dead tree.
Perhaps what you dream of is already so:
it was October when my freedom came.
I sat on the front row, looking at you,
clenching my hands in fists.

I want to eat ambrosia,

dine with the gods.  Dance.

more at the Dead Mule.

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