what i found inside the black box

so much
can happen in a decade. in a night filled
with spiral-sta(i)red decline. things

to hold on to, in sacred letters tall as a man:
to touch. you should have known
there: tangere, like want. volare, to fly.

i’ve forgotten the past tense.
plusquamperfect amaveram,*
but only in the wrong tongue. she died.

now that coat hangs hung, like a wish,
starched with thin veins, so much in a decade.
some things you hold against forever.

memoryclamped. what if you could fly then,
glasseyed and steady. beads tight round
white wrist, to want with small fingers.

something many-touched to hang on to
in the night. meant to hold not to cut, meant
to hold not to cut. meant to hold not to cut.


*translations all from the Latin. amaveram is the first-person plusquamperfect tense of amare = I had loved.


Hill top in fall

This poem is not for you.

It walks behind me and laughs,
says you must
have strength to be
gentle (and tho i feel like crying);
We take pride in being southpaws.

This poem doesn’t hear the hurt
in a message (maybe)
meant for me, sent
to the second of your ex-wives.

(This poem
thinks things
with an ex-
are so insubstantial
as to nonexist.
We disagree.)

It kisses me
on my merlot mouth,
doesn’t mention
the knife on the floor.

This poem knows its whiskeys
like truths: starkly & burning
in the back of the throat, finds
nothing light in either.
(Often there is strength
with no gentleness.)

It  takes the Bottom paths,
sticks to canal lines,
the water, the river,
railroad overhead rumbling,

thinks about boxcars, speaks
my wistful, bitter into where
no one can hear, knows
i too always take the riverpaths
up Hill (and, sadly,
will not follow you home).

This is not

what was meant to be sprouted from scarlet, this: your exhortation to stop picking at scabs, the crusted-over crimson of searching fingers. I meant it to be about the blood of history, all sticky rust and slave-set-free-catharsis, set outside train station where truth is buried under a clouded highway overpass and redemption pulls away with a groaning of unoiled engines. But time taps out what it will, and I have a talent for scars. Sigh, and sigh. Let’s, then, try to keep our own story from becoming pock-marked & pot-holed: the burial-ground-turned-parking-lot of that old hospital where I first learned to stitch (with catgut in formalin-fumed skins of forever), will wait.

Written after a stroll through what is called “Hell’s half-acre,” which encompasses archaeological sites for Lumpkin’s slave jail, burial grounds and city gallows. The I-95 overpass, Main Street Station, and parking lots for students and employees of the Medical College of Virginia (where I did first learn to suture) all overlap/border the sites. Linked in for Five-Sentence Fiction with the prompt “scarlet.” Could we call this my first attempt at flash, do you think?