Believe a crown of kingfishers, their spines
tuned for ascent, their belted
with blue light that scatters
as they loose the tree—
a crown, a wound, a consequence
of birds whose blue light rattles sky,
whose feathers, strung beneath our star,
sing to bruising. Believe
a curve in the road, the climb
of its spine that sings
under a boy, standing
where an officer’s car
might come, might shatter blue light
into the trees. Believe corona
of our sun
belting its flares at twilight,
suspended: a gown, a wound, a wish.
Believe the crown of my son,
is a crown cleaving to its own shine:
he swings an arm from the shoulder,
his hair inks shadows
over the moss—
he lifts a lighter
to the paper birch, beholds a leaf almost
Believe that my son—his skin brown
as the sparrow’s throat, his collarbone tender
as kingfisher’s wing—
belongs to me, my absent
white body—no, belongs
to the trees
that loosed a crown of birds, a mercy:
believe my son
no ornament, no thorn—
that he should not
from this place, that he should not
need to fly
from blue light—
a wound, a crown, a circling—
believe the trees
will keep close his body,
that he might still hold fire in his hand.
Copyright © 2018 Sally Rosen Kindred. This poem originally appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review. Used with permission of the author.
What can you say about the knife that hasn't already been said? It is the same knife today as it was yesterday. Even if the law decided to melt it down, it would still be a knife tomorrow. You can travel back through the history of the knife & discover the America-like violence of its birth, how it carved yokes into brown bodies & how it chose night as its uniform. The knife very quickly discovered skin, blood, & the poor. The knife is an instrument & so takes its identity from the purpose of the hand that uses it. The knife can glide gracefully down a backbone in mimicry of a feather. Or it can leap from one carved island of bone to another. When I was given the knife I pretended to be a survivalist even though I lived in the inner city. The knife melted into milk in my hands & I poured it into the wailing mouth of my baby. It was redelivered into the world & made its way to an open sewer. A woodpecker used the knife to cut down the lone acacia on the block. The tree tumbled & soon it was as if nothing had ever grown there. Except the knife. From a sandy oval in concrete, the knife jutted like a mouse tail. It waited for someone who believed in dynamite.
Copyright © 2018 by Rodney Gomez. Used with the permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Quarterly West Issue 94
My son’s head is a fist
rapping against the door of the world.
For now, it’s dressers, kitchen islands,
dining room tables that coax his clumsy, creating
small molehills of hurt breaching
the surface. The ice pack,
a cold kiss to lessen the blow equals
a frigid intrusion, a boy cannot be a boy
with all this mothering getting in the way.
Sometimes the floor plays accomplice
snagging an ankle, elbow, top lip to swell.
Other times it’s a tantrum, when he spills his limbs
onto the hardwood, frenzied then limp with anger,
tongue clotted with frustration,
a splay of 2 year-old emotion voiced in one winding wail.
My son cannot continue this path.
Black boys can’t lose control at 21, 30, even 45.
They don’t get do-overs.
So I let him flail about now,
let him run headfirst into the wall
learn how unyielding perceptions can be.
Bear the bruising now,
before he grows, enters a world
too eager to spill his blood, too blind to how red it is.
Copyright © 2016 by Teri Ellen Cross Davis. “Knuckle Head” originally appeared in North American Review. Reprinted with permission of the author.