Yet I was, in peculiar truth, a very lucky boy.
— James Baldwin
In any case, the story begins
with darkness. A hallway. A broom closet.
A bowl of bruised light held over a city.
Or, the story begins with a child playing
the role of an ashy plum—how it rises
to meet the man's teeth, or doesn't.
How the skin is broken or breaks
because the body just wants
what it wants: to be a hallway
where men nail their photos
to the wall. Does that make sense?
To want to own the image of the man
but not the man? To want the memory
of his hands without his hands
having ever nailed you to the dark?
James, we’re still looking for that world
you couldn’t write. Where the story ends
& the man never dies of love & the sweet
is in the fruit & not its breaking on the tongue
& the child in the mirror knows he’s beautiful
before he’s hurt & he has his own mouth
& he speaks his own name.
Girl, With Flowers
Move to Oakland, CA & there are no more months.
No years. Only new apartments, new tenants
of the haunted room upstairs. One night, I fall asleep
inside my life & wake up in a cold house with four cats
a new song on the radio. One night—or is it the same one?—
the whole block floods with the music of another someone’s daughter
skipping off to whatever happens after this.
There are always flowers blooming in this city
a kind of cruelty, after all, how do you know when it’s time
for tears? For carving a hole beneath a snowbank & living there
for just a while? A girl ends & still there are roses. A boy is carried off
to jail & roses & all the while I ride the train. I get on in the morning
& get off & it’s still morning, but a different season altogether
sundrenched always though I darken all the rooms & it’s not
so bad, just look outside, how terribly gorgeous it all is. Outside
the window of my new apartment there are children singing
the same sweet song & I don’t know all the words, but they pierce
my granite heart until I’m such a useless dam & O, I could tell you
about so much. But, for now, there’s just one girl, one solitary girl racing
her shadow across the blacktop. One of these mornings, I know she’ll win
& I’ll turn my back on the window & be finished with poems
where, in the end, a girl disappears from the story, even if
that morning, she does.