greater love

I slept through the whole thing

Two floors above me
“the brother from Senegal”
on the roof’s edge ready
to trade one kingdom for another,
his long swarthy legs dangling
in the dusk of Anacostia morning

My neighbors said
“his whole body shook”
with weeping—the kind
of grief we have forgotten,
or have become too dignified to show

His wife left him
the night before;
his kingdom had come
& gone

Later that morning
I wanted to ask him if there
is a Wolof word
for the blues
or if there is any music

with notes large enough.

More by Fred L. Joiner


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.

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