When the Famous Black Poet speaks, I understand that his is the same unnervingly slow rambling method of getting from A to B that I hated in my father, my father who always told me don't shuffle. The Famous Black Poet is speaking of the dark river in the mind that runs thick with the heroes of color, Jackie R., Bessie, Billie, Mr. Paige, anyone who knew how to sing or when to run. I think of my grandmother, said to have dropped dead from the evil eye, of my lesbian aunt who saw cancer and a generally difficult future headed her way in the still water of her brother's commode. I think of voodoo in the bottoms of soup-cans, and I want to tell the poet that the blues is not my name, that Alabama is something I cannot use in my business. He is so like my father, I don't ask the Famous Black Poet, afterwards, to remove his shoes, knowing the inexplicable black and pink I will find there, a cut gone wrong in five places. I don't ask him to remove his pants, since that too is known, what has never known a blade, all the spaces between, where we differ . . . I have spent years tugging between my legs, and proved nothing, really. I wake to the sheets I kicked aside, and examine where they've failed to mend their own creases, resembling some silken obstruction, something pulled from my father's chest, a bad heart, a lung, the lung of the Famous Black Poet saying nothing I want to understand.
Carl Phillips - 1959-
Coral-bells purpled the fallen sycamore leaves, dead, the dead versus those who attempted death, versus those who effectively fashioned out of such attempts a style akin to electric guitar shimmer swelling and unswelling like starlings when they first lift off, or like stars when, from their fixed sway, they come suddenly loose, any man letting at last go of a career spent swallowing—trying to—catastrophe’s jewel-studded tail, un- swallowable, because holy, in the way of fanfare, its gift for persuasion, how it can make of what’s ordinary, and therefore flawed of course, a thing that’s holy, for a time it seemed so, didn’t restlessness seem to be, little god of making, no less impossible in the end than any of the gods, where’s the holiness, they sleep never, they tire infrequently, to be tired bores them, distraction refined by damage would be their drug of choice hands down, if they could choose, even they don’t get to.