In the beginning there was only the moonlight
and the rain

and the mud that was left once the rain had stopped
and the footprints left in the mud

made by my boots from when
outside in the rain I had stood

beside the gate through the whole storm
watching out into the nothing that was on the other side of the fence

and once the rain had passed and I had trudged indoors
dredging the mud across my floors and it was

only the moonlight and an inch of rainwater
collecting in my footprints in the yard and also

upon the thin bodies of the night blooming flowers
from out in the distance

the animals began
talking with the world

and I lay in my bed by the open window listening
to that world being born out there

and I watched the swans drop
from the dark air

to fold the lights of the night sky
into the down of their once soaring backs

and that’s when you came home to find me upstairs
asleep

having tried so hard to stay awake but failing
and you woke me with what I know not

the harshest softness
or the most careful of violence

and your face was the first thing that I saw
in the familiar light of this new place

4 stars

there was a wasp nest on the back porch
it looked like dead honeycomb
outside was a hornet’s hive
I stuck my hand out there
the sun buzzed loudly
nothing could bite me
a caterpillar did
I climbed its tree
it kissed me with its back
its hair was sharp
enough to leave four stars
spinning in my palm
the world spun through my arms
and crashed onto our street
so I picked it up
at the back of the backyard
was a rusty shed falling apart
inside it I swear there was a giant sleeping
I woke him told him my dreams
and led him humming
back into our yellow kitchen
the countertops were always covered in top soil
my mother loved to garden
and to collect marbles inside of mason jars
we were never allowed to touch them
I loved the smell of the air conditioner
there was one in the dining room
and one in my parents’ bedroom
putting my face in front of the vents
made me feel like Sunday
I could bike the whole square of the block in two minutes flat
my friends Jalal, Put, and Rue lived around the corner from us
there was a tree in front of their house
too big to be a birch
my friend Samandar lived two fence hops away
his mother showed mine what God looked like
God He smelled like my father
both their beards were black bears
me and Mom went fishing in the park
I caught two catfish
and waited for them to die
they swam in circles inside of our refrigerator
because I had never learned how to kill anything
in Mississippi we ate every single perch that I caught
the grasshoppers there?
they are the size of an Almond Joy
my sister she had a pet rat
part of his ear was gone
his name was Pierre
I named my mouse after a favorite book
Charlotte’s Web
she is buried under a white rock in the backyard
the day our dog died
Pops found him hanging on the clothesline
I cried into my pillow
I was ten years old
I could fit under the house
my knees didn’t care
neither did the dark
after the tub
the hallway from the bath’s room to mine
was a dark tunnel
breathing only to swallow me whole
I shivered
and was more afraid of that walk
than anything ever since
even now there are moments
where it still shakes me
but there were times when the night
sat beside me on my bed quietly
like it was a big man
who had to do what I told him to do
he was too dumb
or he loved me too much
either way he had the same smile
I ain’t never been stung by a bee before
not my whole life

Sock Hop

I was following the little dog through the skinny trees.

I was just collecting water glasses.

I was filling them at the well and carrying them back, one by one,

trying not to drop a single drop.

I was wearing the same shirt as the day before and the day before that

And the day before that.

Asking all my ghosts to join me on the dance floor.

Let’s Twist, let’s shimmy.

While the room waltzes, I will Watusi.

I was Jimmy Switchblade.

I was the Three Cherries Gang.

I was the tallest cigarette in the pack

I was black jacket black collared collar up. I was actually yellow shirt lost.

I was laying in the dirt and piling it on. I believed if I kept trying to bury myself

then maybe I could talk to some other world.

 

I just got dirty.

My belly was heavy.

For months, I barely moved.

After she left I barely moved.

I watched the sun go down, and while waiting for it to return I slept

–dreaming of the bicycle but I did not know what the bicycle was.

I thought, What a strange horse that fish is—do I kill it or ride it?

How do I do either of those?

Instead, I baptized myself with bath water, rode the airplanes like they were church.

Hoped the chains could not climb this high.

Staring out the windows, I made a list of my body parts that no longer worked,

folded it into an envelope,

hoping my mother or a former lover would one day come across it.

That list is a poem not a list.

So is this one.

I rode the airplanes

until they brought me 530 miles from the room I was born inside of.

My fists back then were not so much smaller than they are now, simply tighter.

I have been shrinking more and more with every month.

The South it is my beautiful bed.

One day bury me in it.

Till then I will touch it from time to time.

Carry me inside its wet wet heat–

I sweat when I walk.

When I walk I see my dreams come closer.

What I thought was a horse or a fish was really a girl on a bicycle.

She had small fingers but reached them towards me.

I neither killed nor rode her.

All I did was make a hand.

All I did was get wet.

All I did was shake my body like a library in an earthquake.

I spilled books like holy water.

My rooms were a mess.

 

The ceiling came in closer to read all that I was–a thousand years of spines,

a pale suit stitched from a riverbank. Bags of the heaviest dust. Splinters

on my tongue from licking the roofs of so many cathedrals–

 

I had worked so hard for my sorrow.

So I asked my boss for the night off.

Caught another plane.

Rode it to a dance in Chicago.

 

I combed my hair, slicked down with pomade. Put my shiniest belt buckle on.

I saw Suzie on the dance floor.

She put a quarter in the jukebox and grabbed me like a police man

asked What you do Ace?

I told her I work at a malt shop. And sometimes I bury things.

But I ain’t too good at that. I ain’t always too good at that I told her.

She looked at me like we had prayed on the same cliff.

She told me she didn’t believe in God anymore.

I told her I still did.

Her and I, we have prayed on the same cliff.

She held me like a handcuff.

I swallowed keys.

I danced with Suzie all night long.

I’m still waiting for the sun to come up.

I don’t care if it never does.

I am warm enough.