I come from the fire city.

i come from the fire city / fire came and licked up our houses, lapped them up like they were nothing / drank them like the last dribbling water from a concrete fountain / the spigot is too hot to touch with your lips be careful / fire kissed us and laughed / and even now the rust climbs the walls, red ivy / iron fire and the brick blossoms florid / red like stolen lipstick ground down to a small flat earth / stand on any corner of the fire city, look west to death / the red sun eats the bungalows / the fire city children watch with their fingers in their mouths / to savor the flaming hots or hot flamins or hot crunchy curls or hot chips / they open the fire hydrants in the fire city and lay dollar store boats in the gutters / warrior funeral pyres unlit

I saw Emmett Till this week at the grocery store

looking over the plums, one by one
lifting each to his eyes and
turning it slowly, a little earth,
checking the smooth skin for pockmarks
and rot, or signs of unkind days or people,
then sliding them gently into the plastic.
whistling softly, reaching with a slim, woolen arm
into the cart, he first balanced them over the wire
before realizing the danger of bruising
and lifting them back out, cradling them
in the crook of his elbow until
something harder could take that bottom space.
I knew him from his hat, one of those
fine porkpie numbers they used to sell
on Roosevelt Road. it had lost its feather but
he had carefully folded a dollar bill
and slid it between the ribbon and the felt
and it stood at attention. he wore his money.
upright and strong, he was already to the checkout
by the time I caught up with him. I called out his name
and he spun like a dancer, candy bar in hand,
looked at me quizzically for a moment before
remembering my face. he smiled. well
hello young lady
       hello, so chilly today
       should have worn my warm coat like you
yes so cool for August in Chicago
       how are things going for you
oh
he sighed and put the candy on the belt
it goes, it goes.

The Discount Mega Mall (in memoriam)

for you
i trace
the
letters
of my
name
in the
air
with my
pinky
like a
gold
necklace
like a
signature
on a
grain
of rice
in a
little jar
eve
the night
before
like a
dusk
like
the end
of things beloved

testify

i stand before you to say 
that today i walked home
& caught the light through
the fence & it was so golden
i wanted to cry & i lifted 
my right hand to say thank
you god for the sun thank 
you god for a chain link fence
& all the shoes that fit into
the chain link fence so that
we might get lifted god thank
you & i just wanted to dance
& it feels good to have food
in your belly & it feels good
to be home even when home
is the space between metal
shapes & still we are golden
& a man who wore the walk
of hard grounds & lost days
came toward me in the street
& said ‘girl what a beautiful 
day’ & i said yes, testify
& i walked on & from some
place a horn rose, an organ,
a voice, a chorus, here to tell
you that we are not dead
we are not dead we are not
dead we are not dead we are
not dead we are not dead 
we are not dead we are not
dead 
yet