be specific

            on listening to "Yama"

She asked me what the song
did for me

“Be specific” she said

I tell her Lee Morgan
wrote this song
for someone he loved
& let get away

I try to explain to her
how the blues can be
how they can bring

I try to give words
to how a song can
crawl up inside you
 shine a light
on something
forgotten & make it
live again


a pocket can sometimes be
a kind of prison,

I have never lived in
a cash economy where the bill

fold unfolds to find someone
creased in the middle,

but perhaps credit moves
the same, the way it scores

the pocket and the body
boxed and bureaued

the edge of a card
cuts anything  akin to skin

a Dollar, a Euro, a World
Bank, a debt to erase, a wait

a race, a weight.


If it were only that simple, as sound,

but the first cut always leaves

some unwanted,

unworked. What language

fills greed’s bottomless gut,

the flesh that sells flesh,

cut away from the bone of debt? The language

of cutting is a subtle lexicon, always

sounds kinder, gentler, than the trill blade

under the tongue of our economy’s math.  Soft, sayings

like human scale, like rightsizing,

like achieving efficiencies

hide the blade, hide the murder

that pen and protocol make, masked.

Below as Above

after the harmattan has emptied his last
gasp & wheeze, & we have shaken loose his dust

from our bodies & found shelter
from  the Sahel’s certain heat,

when the water returns & the river is high,
this bit of sun bittered earth becomes a stage, a show

for every sweet thing we have held
back in the swelter,

our hands thank the sky, a simple wave is still a worthy praise,
our feet thank the dust & the shallows

one, for the friction that helps shed the old,
the other, for the waters that soothe new skin,

our thighs thank the soil, the unseen
nourishment for the long season without,

our hips thank the moon,
for the pull on the tides;

the orbit of gratitude, music over our heads
our mothers’ mother’s song, a chant pulled

down from the heavens, or a blessing drawn
up out of the soil’s new bounty.