Atlantic City Sunday Morning

                  Plow-piled snow shrouded 
         in shadow from the abbreviating sun, snow 
frosted with the exhaust of tour buses. Pigeons shift in congress. 
                  Sun glints windshields & chrome 
         like cotton blooms in the monitors. Surveillance here is catholic. 

From cornices cameras oscillate like raven-heads 
                  nestled along palisades. Cameras mind entrances,
                       pedestrians, traffic, 
          the landscape from land's end to Baccarat Boulevard. I tend
the security station, notice briefly among these half-dozen screens, 
                  a phantom looping through the busy breeze-way & out 

         of view. Unseasonable sparrows mating? Something 
clutched like a gambler's fist, keening a halo from daylight 
                  folded across the corridor like gift-wrap. 
        Little tumbleweed, if you are sparrows, you are bishops
of risk wrestling toward pain's bursaries. Jake and angel I believe 

                    I could have conjured that woman now entering 
          the asphalt current to protect you. Mira! she might be saying. But
she'd be speaking to me. Waving her cashier's apron against traffic,
                    through the street like a banner out to where 
          her good deed is witnessed. Out to where I interpret her behavior 

as censure. As if the pixels of light depicting the world she is framed in
                   were impastoed by me to the monitor's glass canvass (to
                        be arranged 
         according to the obligation of my anonymous nobility), 
what good could I do 
                  to alter the facts of the world as it hustles around her? 
                       What odds 

         do those birds stand to chance anyway? 
Prevention is akin to greed. Say recovery 
                   and a sermon salts the air. Consider the postcards here 
         on the counter beside me. They'll do no more than carry the
             word of their 
senders, speak pictures: Jersey's domed capital looks like a junkyard 

                   of church bells, a reliquary of Sundays 
          wracked and laid to rest. Noble martyr, Trenton fears no law
of diminishing returns, says it "makes, 
                   the world takes:" Another prays the next wet pebble 
         be the one that makes a beach. Paydirt. We should be so lucky. 

More by Gregory Pardlo

Title It Shotgun Wound

for Jackson Pollack

on the bar of the Cedar Tavern: the shot 
that got spilled after you'd taken several rounds,
making the oak bar report 
your vigor each time with the glass 
emptied of its mayhem. 
Before the impulse could travel its course 
to spark your hand reaching again for the glass, 
Creeley's clumsy ebullience, bounding to the bar, 
spilled the bitter dose. As he apologized, 
you were thinking there's no such thing 
as accident. A moment ago, you were ready 
to put a nickel in the Wurlitzer and dance your way 
back to Easthampton. But now, you took him 
by the shoulders, gripped him like the bathroom door 
you once ripped from its hinges because of the mirror on it. 
You wanted to discipline him, instruct him in 
the logic of charged particles, make Creeley feel 
the stray electron as he may have 
when his eyeball caught pixied windshield 
as an infant. If you had known 
that child's long months stifling tears 
for fear of aggravating the wound, 
you would have marveled how he stored his grief 
as you marveled now his standing up to your bully- 
face. Everyone thought you knew each other, 
how you looked just then in one another's arms.

Copyright

Paul Green
Of course I know the story of the scorpion
and the frog. I've known Biggers all my life.
I’ve cast down my buckets where I've
stood with them, shoulder to shoulder, our bodies
bent like double helices in the fields. And
when the mob came for Dick didn’t I sit anyways
outside his quarters all night like a jailhouse lawyer,
him ignorant of the nature of his custody?
It was me who kept the townsmen at bay after he
provoked them. My cousin among them
had watched him grin and wheedle,
consort with white people carelessly, our naïve
and guileless women, at the civil gathering where
he was my ward. And later, because of me,
his offense went unanswered, un-atoned.
I know the hearts of men are governed
by the endowments of nature. Some children
are faithful. Some are made to obey.


Charles Leavell
First I had to capture the boy 
in a thicket of print.
He tried to make my happy darky
dangerous, make my darky
an idea that I couldn’t bear to swallow. So
I made him a hothouse flower, writing, His hunched
shoulders and long, sinewy arms that dangle
almost to his knees, but warned
readers that Nixon, the "Brick
Slayer," as I christened him,
had none of the charm of speech
or manner that is characteristic of so many
southern darkies. I am a gentle man.
He is very black—almost pure Negro. Withal,
I had to cleave that slate with first words, in order
to get at him, get the nature right, and I
could almost hear the stone sing
like the brick
he used to beat the white woman
who discovered him, that June day in '38,
bagging her Philco radio—as if it were
me doing the slaying.


Richard Wright
One quarter argument two
quarters confession. I engender
my experience in the characters
and they thrive; for the balance
I tracked Robert Nixon, so-called
"Brick Slayer," through rows
and columns, finding him breathing
in the margins of the Chicago Tribune.
I loved that boy like redemption
loves a sinner and saw in him
the mute pronouncements of the proletariat,
mutiny on the Potemkin. No wonder I
was reluctant to ditch the script I wrote
with Paul Green, that playwright 
accused of being a lover of the down-
trodden. Much as I wished to avoid
controversy, when Welles demanded
a Bigger without dream sequences, without
singing, for the Broadway production,
I sighed relief. I knew I had to protect
my creation from the caustic
ministrations of Southern sensibility.
By North Star or candlelight, by necessity,
I had to spirit him away.


Robert Nixon
More crucial than surveillance in the round
house of corrections called a panopticon is the being
watched the prisoner faces raising hairs on the ears.
Like the sun’s warmth on the back recognized as light,
recognized as presence. White noise.
The confinement of plain sight. The vertiginous spin
siphoning off the will to question, to doubt,
g-forces pinning back the cheeks, prisoners
reduced to images affixed by the weight of the guard's
transparent eyeball the unreasoning stump of muscle
itself imprisoned like the figures stenciled on an urn.

Epistemology of the Phone Booth

                       

                         I found the scrap of City Paper
classified, the 1-900 number and photos
like candidates there, in love’s voting machine.

Discomfort station. No pissoir. Hothouse maybe for
a fourteenth-year sprig: me. Light box
to slideshow the introvert
             cloaked in a prepaid identity

discreet as a shirttail in the fly.
                                                 Ma Bell’s shelter
was brutal & snug. I’d heard the ram’s horn hum.
A hymn. Just like prayer I thought. No answer.
Clack’d the splendid tongue
                                                and bloom!
Salutations rose like pollen, prepped me for
            the inverse of police
sketch artists, the one who would evoke so I could render,
in my mind, the enigma of the wanted; one to source
             the vacuum wrenching stutters like rivets

off my tongue.
             Plink. Into the sewer of the mouthpiece.
Then the universal ballad of the waiting room.
Casiotone.
                                                 Hold (me) music.

                                    No orgone
closet. More like that other-lonely doom—the body
encapsulated, its inventory ever unknown.      Dantean vestibule.
Anti-chat room.
                        When the genderless voice beyond
began to lavish I grew ears all over,
                                                             inner ears
swiveling from one tepid libretto to the next
tuning for some satin frequency the culture
promised until, I repent (forgive me father), the card went bust.