Friday, January 13, 2012

Dead at 39

I am no longer of myself, but of a communal picture, living at large. When I place my hands on the lectern, I feel voltage where none was before. The throng loosens its voices though the well of my soul sinks deeper. I once stood at the foot of this mountain, but now climb to the pinnacle; its peak is within reach.

From colored boy to icon
The fruits of my thoughts

I am no longer fearful, though you fear me, fear my credo. I am not here to change you, but to reshape your world view, as did my namesake four hundred years ago. I also can list ninety-five reasons: One, I am a human being. Two, my rights are equally guaranteed by the Constitution. Three, my wife gives birth to babies just as yours does. Four, I am not defined by the color of my skin. Five...

No longer deny
My selfsame humanity
I am your brother

Memphis has become my Jerusalem; hidden amongst the crowd lies a snake, which my heel cannot crush. This weight works itself into my face, trying to contort my message, but the weight will turn to buoyancy, my words will become golden. I stand now on the balcony listening to a song in my mind: Take My Hand, Precious Lord. I see the snake.

Vict'ry flashes
Sending me to the mountain top
My dream is at hand

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Good Counsel Home, 1963

The first time I saw Tula,
she was cracking an egg over
a yellow bowl the Housemother and I
had found at Goodwill that morning.

The trick is to beat it until it’s good and foamy,
she said, a matchstick dangling
off the edge of her lip, nearly falling
into our uncooked lunch.

We sat at the counter, balancing on bar stools
still funky from bleach and ammonia, slurping egg-dumpling soup,
taking reluctant bites out of apples
we’d picked up with our AFDC checks.

Tula was ready to pop, though she never complained
about the silver ribbons snaking across her gut or the
bowling ball sitting on her bladder. I saw her once, scratching her
backside, working her index finger like her ass was made outta Playdoh.

Two weeks later, Tula was on kitchen duty again.
She stood there with her deflated belly and eyes like a basset hound.
I asked if she knew who got her kid.
Sneering, she took two brown eggs, and raising

her arms high over head, she smashed
them together, the yellow yolks sliding
down her wrists, shells falling in her hair,
whispering, who the hell cares.