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|Publisher:||Copper Canyon Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.80(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.30(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
I’ve lived on dirt roads that bent and ended
at a gate of pines,
the dust skipped up didn’t make my mother
look like a dream. I’ve lived
on roads that dragged through America,
I’ve paced only them to the next town.
The road we kissed on is gone,
rich folks buying up all the city in which we make do.
I miss when Sonny could do a wheelie
all the way down Person Street
and no one would call the police
because he was a part of the neighborhood like the honeysuckle
bush between two yards, and he was beautiful,
not like a horse standing alone in a yellow field,
but like a man is beautiful.
Most of the little towns have a road nicknamed Devil’s Turn,
where someone’s brother died on a Saturday night
while Nina sang Tell Me More and More and Then Some
on the Caddy’s radio,
the moon the color of the oldest cardinal.
Every road isn’t a way out, some circle
back like wolves, you can’t get lost on them
and they won’t lose you, others wait
for you to run out of gas then come alive
with what your mother said would take you.
Every road promises something like a father does,
but when you arrive the town is empty, and you wait
like a child questioning everything, the road itself
laughing like a drunk man falling into a roadside ditch.
The road I’m walking now is howling and full of moon,
hopefully it’ll lead to myself,
hopefully they’ll take me home.
The Mechanical Cotton Picker
for Black Chicago poets
It wasn’t that they killed John Boy
in front of his mama’s small blue house,
and that no one called her Ms. Bluebird anymore
out of respect, though she never minded the name,
it made her believe she’d fly off some day,
or that the sheriff let John Boy’s body sit
until even the babies stopped crying,
their eyes filled with him,
his body already going to marble
no one would be able to lift from their sleep.
It was that we could feed ourselves then
by getting down on our hands and knees to pick cotton,
and most knew what a body smelled like
blowing down a dirt road.
When Chicago reached my ear the war was full of bodies.
They sent whole train cars for us black folk.
I read the Defender and waited to hide my face
behind the curtains of a northbound train
and I prayed the train car would fly.
The south truly doesn’t want us to go.
A Mississippi cop would catch a family disappearing
behind a rainstorm and send them home,
the clouds leaving four muddy fields at a time.
I left like a season’s first lover across a window,
slowly like a southern sun
diagonal on a work-back.
I wanted to carry my aunts to Chicago with me
like this obituary-filled Bible,
these plums I got saved, purpling in my bag.
When I Left
a turkey vulture lifted from a field I still love.
It was hunting season, birds flew off
at the sound of rifles,
we warred with brown rabbits.
The vulture’s head was bald and delicate
like the old men in their hats
with names on them like Ford, USA and Dodgers,
to cover their soft skin, old men
who stood in front of the breakfast truck stop
across from the field, the butter partly melted
in the middle of the grits, they also saw the vulture,
knew how to scavenge, gathered,
like horses or stars, in a junkyard looking
for a rusted pearl. Those old men have died
in their sleep by now, though no field could care
how many will fall down in it and why.
I want to sit here tonight still in love
and vultureless listening to Sade.
I’m still the boy who walked through a dying
Sweet-potato field, though our small town
wouldn’t recognize me now.
I have a different body, a dented body,
fieldless and far gone.