(from Pluck Gems from Graves: Haikus, a book in progress).

This evening’s Black sound
Walks like a cat on grass blades
Your nickname two-steps

Get back to your poems
Don’t forget to wear your mask
Main Street is empty

Can’t rock your hoodie
Your cliques of affinity
Might lead to arrest

A virus walk break
Twilight stroll to compost bin
Two rusty leaves rap

Go ‘head, bro, dance
There are no mirrors in this joint
You used to love her

Draw her some roses
The before times are ending
Lost my love letters

Pandemic fashion
The maples need to speak up
Detroit Reds all day

To live in this hour
Recall a jukebox love song—
Punk-ass church bells

Perfect ending
A red-tail rolls over the steeple
Dandelion gigs

Pull the dream catcher
A death count on the broadcast
April is chillin’

A bebop wake up
Getting my shit together
Brew some Bustelo

In the Face of What You Remember

You remember, that was the summer of Up Rock, quarter water,
         speed knots, pillow bags, two-for-five, Jesus pieces, and
         Bambú. The Willie Bobo was turned up to ten, and some
         would’ve said that a science was dropped on our summer.

The summer that was lit with whispers of wild style, Rock
        Steady battles & white party plates made all kinds of
        moons on the playground foam.

The summer the Burner was used to eat & mandate, inspired
       Sunday sermons, became a literary influence with humming
       climaxes, a bribable tale, a dub tied to a string &
       squashing beef wasn’t an option.

The summer of fresh shrills, and a future somersaulting off a
       monkey bar; a future placing bets that all us old heads,
       desperate to find a new cool, could not flip pure.

That was the summer that our grills dropped to below freezing.

Back then, Palo Viejo was thermal & therapy, bones were
       smoked in the cut, and you had to expect jungle gym giggle
       to be accompanied by buckshot.

That was the summer Charlie Chase hijacked megawatts from
       Rosa’s kitchenette, found gems in a milk crate, spun his one
       & twos below rims that still vibrated with undocumented

The same summer we became pundits & philosophers, poets
       & pushers; that we all tried to fly, but only one of us

The summer that Papu turned up to extra status. The only one in
       the crew who had reduced fame’s window by a fifth when
       the camera panned his Cazal-laced Up Rock in the Roxy
       scene of Beat Street.

One could say we gave the Block gasp & gossip, body & bag,
       a folktale worth its morphology.

That was the season we had reason to rock capes & wings,
       chains & rings, some of us flew Higher than most, and
       tricks were hardly ever pulled from a hat; all that, & a bag
       of BBQ Bon Tons was enough for at least one of us to say,

I’m straight.

That’s My Heart Right There

We used to say,
That’s my heart right there.

As if to say,
Don’t mess with her right there.

As if, don’t even play,
That’s a part of me right there.

In other words, okay okay,
That’s the start of me right there.

As if, come that day,
That’s the end of me right there.

As if, push come to shove,
I would fend for her right there.

As if, come what may,
I would lie for her right there.

As if, come love to pay,
I would die for that right there.

You Lose Something Every Day

It was Dre who once said,
You lose something every day

Your mind on the way to the store
The floor on the way to your mind
Your mind on your way to the clinic
The clinic on the way to one more

The mad in the way of your kind
The lyrics to your favorite song
The cure on the way to the camp
The finish on your way to the line

Your nickel in the way of a dime
The short to your favorite long
The loss on the way to the find
The skin that was yours to bare

The crown that was yours to wear
The floor you were forced to clean
The game that was yours to fair
The face you were pushed to mean

It was Dre who once said,
You lose something every day

Related Poems

You Can't Survive on Salt Water

—seven haiku for old orleans—

dead dogs hang from trees
bloated barges sit on the
wrong side of levees

dumb pigeons have flown
now it's people's turn to perch
roasting atop roofs

a caravan of
yellow buses drowns because
the mayor can't drive

official death counts
exclude so-called looters shot
on sight of their skin

dry folk uptown hold
their noses, rejecting wet
people's funky stank

things that go bump in
the night: your boat against a
dead baby's body

a son returns, finds
four-month-old bones wearing his
missing mother's dress

14 haiku

(for Emmett Louis Till)

Your limbs buried
in northern muscle carry
their own heartbeat

alert with
conjugated pain

young Chicago
stutterer whistling
more than flesh

your pores
wild stars embracing
southern eyes

footprints blooming
in the night remember
your blood

in this southern
classroom summer settles
into winter

i hear your
pulse swallowing
neglected light

your limbs
fly off the ground
little birds...

we taste the
blood ritual of
southern hands

blue midnite
breaths sailing on
smiling tongues

say no words
time is collapsing
in the woods

a mother's eyes
remembering a cradle
pray out loud

walking in Mississippi
i hold the stars
between my teeth

your death
a blues, i could not
drink away.

Blind Boone’s Apparitions

John William Boone (1864-1927) world-renowned Ragtime                pianist.


my motto for life

                      - merit, not sympathy, wins-

                                              my song against death.


i stroke piano’s

                           eighty eight mouths. each one sings

                                        hot colors of joy


                                                                                     pentatonic black

                                                                 keys raise up high into bliss,

                                                 born to sing my name


                    whippoorwill, hawk, crow

                                   sing madrigals for blind men.

                    forests blooms through each note.


                               my eyes: buried deep

                                             beneath earth’s skin. my vision

                               begins in her womb.


                         darkness sounds like God

                                             flowering from earth's molten tomb...

                         writhed wind. chorded cries.


rain, flower, sea, wind

           map my dark horizon. i

                                              inhale earth’s songbook