After Robert Fuller

Will the new aunt Jemima have dreads?
Why did Susan Smith kill her children and blame a black man?
Would a black man hang himself from a tree with his backpack still on?
Is it justice or revenge we are seeking?
What does justice look like?
What else can I do to feel safe?
Several times a day I stab my fingertips to threads
Looking for something more than blood as a reminder of life
An angry rain whips the window
We lay quiet in bed
Invite Kimiko Hahn to serenade us with her new poems
When she's done   my lover says
Give me something   something to munch on
I offer her my wrist.

More by Cheryl Boyce-Taylor

One Sweet Braid Down She Back

I want thirty more years of poems
I want tiger lily poems
orange blossom poems
poems by Lucille Clifton and Suheir Hammad

poems by Dionne Brand and Joy Harjo
I want Grace Jones to sing she “Bumper song,” sweet and lawless
doh care a damn what nobody feel
I want Jamaican yard talk poems how I love that Nannie ah de Maroons talk

gimme some Trini bush poems
spiked with Vat 19 rum
and plenty blue hundred dollar bills
lots and lots of blue bills so mami cud just stay home brush she hair and count bills

make flying fish and dumplings count blue bills and
make babies with names like
tamarind and flambeau names like one sweet braid down she back
names like kneel-n-pray

names like inhabited and poems to light white candles
poems that blow kerosene and inspire rage
poems to taunt the gods and almost get them
vex                                                             let mami stay home cut oil drums to
make steel pan

and rock melodies until my dead
twin come walking unshaven in de yard
with Malik on he arm and say
all right all’yuh we home

we light ah big yard fire make pigtail soup and smoked duck
and Guinness stout ice cream this time around de girls go churn de ice
       de boys go pour de salt we go praise sing for we dead
we go drink old oak rum rub a little on de chiren gums

we go brew mauby bark and sorrell
and at sixty-seven granny go collect fresh blood an child-bear again
Cheryl and mami go get back de twins dey lost at birth
da go be bacchanal plenty ting fer neighbors to talk bout.

Related Poems

2019

I could string him back up the tree, if you’d like.
        Return his skin’s meaning to an easy distance, coal dust, blaze
And Willie Brown him. You
        Love how the blood muddies the original,
The way it makes a stage of my speechifying, this leeching
        Capital from his dying,
Like an activist. I know

I’m not supposed to sing

Of his ringing
        Penetrability, some hole I open impose
On the form—but all I see is bullets, bullets discerning him,
        As years ago it was rope.
I could pull it tighter, finger each bullet deeper,
        If you’d like, an inch rougher,
Far enough to where becomes that second heat, erotic.

I could use the erotic,

If you’d like,
        So ungarish, baring not too frank
A mood, subtle so you need it.— Funny
        How some dark will move illicit if you close your eyes,
The way, say, my black
        Pleasure is named too explicit for a page, but this menace
I put in it is not.

I could yank and knot

The rope, if you’d like, him like a strange fragment
        In them trees,
And the word “again” spelled out about his neck
        Would be the rope’s predicate till let wild, patterned and
Fierce his moan.
        It is a tragedy. No. It is a sonnet, how I know
Already how he ends,

But I could make him

Her, if you’d like, regender them till merely
        Canvas for your “empathy,”
Soup for my mouth. Still, if I could but just get
        This blunt,
Burnt lynched body up
        From on
Out the pocket behind my eye

All trees could be themselves again, all sound.

In Defense of “Candelabra with Heads”

If you’ve read the “Candelabra with Heads”
that appears in this collection and the one
in The Animal, thank you. The original,
the one included here, is an example, I’m told,
of a poem that can speak for itself, but loses
faith in its ability to do so by ending with a thesis
question. Yeats said a poem should click shut
like a well-made box. I don’t disagree.
I ask, “Who can see this and not see lynchings?”
not because I don’t trust you, dear reader,
or my own abilities. I ask because the imagination
would have us believe, much like faith, faith
the original “Candelabra” lacks, in things unseen.
You should know that human limbs burn
like branches and branches like human limbs.
Only after man began hanging man from trees
then setting him on fire, which would jump
from limb to branch like a bastard species
of bird, did we come to know such things.
A hundred years from now, October 9, 2116,
8:18 p.m., when all but the lucky are good
and dead, may someone happen upon the question
in question. May that lucky someone be black
and so far removed from the verb lynch that she be
dumbfounded by its meaning. May she then
call up Hirschhorn’s Candelabra with Heads.
May her imagination, not her memory, run wild.

Winter

         after Lucie Brock-Broido

winter crossing

bleak annulled

dulcimer damaged

choir miraculous

air &

monstrous ravishing

animal fallen

calls nightsky

ghost spectacle

again lynch

light loved

flint bliss

starfish tissue

shrouds lukewarm

sheathes everything

fanatic vanishing