Close Encounters

I was a real cute kid. Ask anybody. My father
likes to tell a story about a modeling scout

who spotted us out midday shopping
at the Briarwood Mall. Imagine five-year-old me,

all sailor stripes & junior afro, doing a full pull-up
on the magazine kiosk: Got any Keats? No doubt

something I’d heard watching Jeopardy
with granny, but it mattered not

to the tickled pink lady. Oh, you’re just soooo
sweet! What a cutie-sweet! she decreed, handing dad

her flowery card. It wouldn’t stop there.
My 10th birthday, whole neighborhood invited,

I strutted down the stairs in a white sports coat
like, Look, folks. In case you’re wondering,

I’m the host! My mother told Mrs. Holbrook
He was born full-grown with a briefcase. As I’m sure

you will be, little sewn seed, undone. Future me.
Dear son, the defacing starts much later.

After desegregation sparks the awkward clutch
of Coach clutches on campus busses, but before

the riots in Baltimore. It started a few days before
I turned thirty, Invisibility. Home from teaching

the sons & daughters of Indiana farm hands
it’s ok to write poems, same briefcase slung

tired across wrinkled linen, you’d have thought
I accosted her—Maria—when I stooped down

to pluck my mother a pair of magenta tulips    
from her own thriving garden, & she shrieked

Why are you staring at my lawn! Maria who
used to slide teen-me a twenty to occupy her

daughter in the playpen while she grabbed
a bottle of Bordeaux from the basement

before the real nanny arrived. She must have seen
straight through me, into the distant past, alternate

reality when your grandparents’ neighboring
residence would have been a servants’, & I

in that moment, for the first time, unsaw her.
As primer. A kind of manila cardstock 

I’d failed to imprint. Son, sometimes this happens.
It happens in gated spaces when you look like

a lock pick. See the 44th president. Scratch that.
It happens in gated spaces, as the lone

locksmith. & if I’m being honest,
the happy way things are going between

me & E., you may well resemble him.   
Don’t count yourself precious. Truth is,

too soon, you will bend down to rob a few
bright blossoms from your own land &

look away from the earth
to make certain you haven’t been ogled.

This phantom guilt applied to a nape
through the eyes of every blind Maria,

here’s the key: try not to let it die.
Now run to the closest mirror, quickly

remember how sweet the fleeting love.

More by Marcus Wicker

Deer Ode, Tangled & Horned

Always the sun first
then the doe sunning, the stag
running toward the doe, wherein

this ramshackle causality
a taste for flesh buds
at birth—when mouth clasps

to breast—quieting
the gut’s ache, not hunger
for touch. If you don’t believe

touch is a famine
fed by need, in another
scene, see an orphaned fawn

bow before a block of salt
crowned on the lone stump
in a clearing where sudden

wind has instructed him
in a lick’s dripping scent.
Right. Now, who then

betrays his permanence
but the huntsmen—
himself? Who then but palette—

appetite’s kissing cousin, driven
only by science of nature—
O Desire, you mother—

You Adam
of the valley, crouched
with a catcher’s mitt

always signaling for the quince
to roll downhill. You’re not much
of a nurturer from behind

this rifle scope,
especially on nights when
I am Lot’s hermaphrodite wife—

all pillar
& looking back
on my downfall from the future

which is surely paradise
or purgatory, depending
on how I decipher my scripture, O

Desire, if you’re a Catholic’s
Tree of Life I must be Buddhist-
free. I’m not interested

in you for the progeny
so much as your skyscraping—
your telephone poles—miraculous,

glazed, glistening with December’s
beckoning slick—crisscrossed
with tiny horizontal beams, wired-

horizon & morning dew,
forming, Dear Sire,
your anointing—this

intimately connected rosary
I can’t help but prick
my tongue to.
 

Prayer on Aladdin's Lamp

Grant me shelter & bread.
Grant me porch ledge, mantel.
Scented candles, bed. Grant me
four walls, a 5-foot fridge & a hall.
& maybe four more walls. Yes.
Four more walls. & a desk. & 
a decent laptop, plus pleather
rolling chair. So that I might sit
&  write you a poem, Lord.
A psalm praising all you’ve given:
Air I sing with. Cricket’s falsetto.
Buzzing bees & nectar—
how chrysanthemum feels
on the tongue
is what you are to me.
You see what I am doing here.
You see, I am being so sincere,
Sire. Which is sad. Still, grant me
a few free hours each day. Grant me
a Moleskine pad & a ballpoint pen
with some mass. Grant me your gift
of this voice. Pages & pages 
of this voice, in a good book
from a loving press. & grant me 
a great love, too. Grant a way
to provide for my love. Like,
a tenure-track job
at a small college in the Midwest.
The kind with poems
& papers to read. With hoodies
running in & out of my office.
Deadline, paychecks, & 
an OK 401(k). Grant me
everything, Lord. Not today.
But before 28. Be Bulldozer.
Genie. Let every prayer avalanche
me into dust, blank matter. Debris.
Make me worthy. O Lord, make me me.
 

Morning in the Burbs

But God, I love the cul-de-sac
at seven a.m., I can’t help it!
This wind-streaming-between-
grass-blades point of view!
 
But this punctuated lawn
I stand upon! The family 
of shrubs, flat-topped & shaped
into a question mark:
 
the eye of its mouth, my favorite
standing place. A painter’s steel
scaffold: against the neighbor’s
gutter like a concert glockenspiel.
 
The souped-up air conditioning:
     in monk octaves. The sheer
wash of it all, water rushing
from a bucket:          A man soaping
 
down his Saab, tie sly tucked.
Two cable guys sharing a joint
in a horseshoe drive:          But God,
I envy their temporary sweet spot:
 
snippet of carefree chummery.
This mum machine hard at work
before work. The:          The nothing
getting in. The nothing getting out:
 

Related Poems

C.R.E.A.M.

after Morgan Parker, after Wu-Tang

                      in the morning I think about money

           green horned lord of my waking

                      forest in which I stumbled toward no salvation

                                 prison made of emerald & pennies

           in my wallet I keep anxiety & a condom

I used to sell my body but now my blood spoiled

           All my favorite songs tell me to get money

                                              I’d rob a bank but I’m a poet

                                 I’m so broke I’m a genius

           If I was white, I’d take pictures of other pictures & sell them

I come from sharecroppers who come from slaves who do not come from kings

                                              sometimes I pay the weed man before I pay the light bill

                      sometimes is a synonym for often

I just want a grant or a fellowship or a rich white husband & I’ll be straight

           I feel most colored when I’m looking at my bank account

I feel most colored when I scream ball so hard motherfuckas wanna find me

                                 I spent one summer stealing from ragstock

If I went to jail I’d live rent-free but there is no way to avoid making white people richer

                                              A prison is a plantation made of stone & steel

           Being locked up for selling drugs = Being locked up for trying to eat

                                              a bald fade cost 20 bones now a days

                      what’s a blacker tax than blackness?

                                              what cost more than being American and poor?

                                         here is where I say reparations.

here is where I say got 20 bucks I can borrow?

           student loans are like slavery but not but with vacation days but not but police

I don’t know what it says about me when white institutions give me money

                      how much is the power ball this week?

I’mma print my own money and be my own god and live forever in a green frame

                      my grandmamma is great at saving money

           before my grandfather passed he showed me where he hid his money & his gun

                      my aunt can’t hold on to a dollar, a job, her brain

                                 I love how easy it is to be bad with money

                      don’t ask me about my taxes

                                 the b in debt is a silent black boy trapped