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-
There's an art to everything. How the rain means April and an ongoingness like that of song until at last it ends. A centuries-old set of silver handbells that once an altar boy swung, processing...You're the same wilderness you've always been, slashing through briars, the bracken of your invasive self. So he said, in a dream. But the rest of it—all the rest— was waking: more often than not, to the next extravagance. Two blackamoor statues, each mirroring the other, each hoisting forever upward his burden of hand-painted, carved-by-hand peacock feathers. Don't you know it, don't you know I love you, he said. He was shaking. He said: I love you. There's an art to everything. What I've done with this life, what I'd meant not to do, or would have meant, maybe, had I understood, though I have no regrets. Not the broken but still-flowering dogwood. Not the honey locust, either. Not even the ghost walnut with its non-branches whose every shadow is memory, memory...As he said to me once, That's all garbage down the river, now. Turning, but as the utterly lost— because addicted—do: resigned all over again. It only looked, it— It must only look like leaving. There's an art to everything. Even turning away. How eventually even hunger can become a space to live in. How they made out of shamelessness something beautiful, for as long as they could.