A Memory

Saeed Jones
When they finished burying me, what was left of me
sent up a demand like a hand blooming in the fresh dirt: 

When I’m back, I want a body like a slash of lightning.
If they heard me, I couldn’t hear their answers. 

But silence has never stopped me from praying. 
Alive, how many nights did I spend knelt between 

the knees of gods and men begging for rain, rent, 
and reasons to remain? A body like the sky seeking

justice. A body like light reaching right down into the field
where you thought you could hide from me. 

They’ve taken their bald rose stems and black umbrellas
home now. They’ve cooked for one another, sung hymns

as if they didn’t prefer jazz. I’m just a memory now. 
But history has never stopped me from praying. 

More by Saeed Jones

Kudzu

           I won’t be forgiven

for what I’ve made

of myself.

            Soil recoils

from my hooked kisses.

            Pines turn their backs

on me. They know

what I can do

with the wrap of my legs.

            Each summer,

when the air becomes crowded

with want, I set all my tongues

upon you.

            To quiet this body,

you must answer

my tendrilled craving.

            All I’ve ever wanted

was to kiss crevices, pry them open,

and flourish within dew-slick

hollows.

            How you mistake

my affection.

            And if I ever strangled sparrows,

it was only because I dreamed

of better songs.

Nocturne: Beheaded

for Thapelo Makutle

All throat now      already brighter than the stars.

I could hold you in my song. Sotto voce, tremble

against me: a breeze slips in, cools my blood

to garnet      bed stained with stones, cold and finally

useless            I Orpheo,       I lyre.  Down river, even damned

with hum, there is room for your cry in my mouth       Sweet,

sweet sotto voce, I sang your moan until       the machete

swung      then I kept singing. I eyeless,      I eternal.

The guards hold blades to the sky and cut the dark open.

Do you hear me raining        from the wound? My tongue

is a kingdom       You live there.

Boy in a Stolen Evening Gown

In this field of thistle, I am the improbable
lady. How I wear the word: sequined weight
snagging my saunter into overgrown grass, blonde
split-end blades. I waltz in an acre of bad wigs.

Sir who is no one, sir who is yet to come, I need you
to undo this zipped back, trace the chiffon
body I’ve borrowed. See how I switch my hips

for you, dry grass cracking under my pretend
high heels? Call me and I’m at your side,
one wildflower behind my ear. Ask me
and I’ll slip out of this softness, the dress

a black cloud at my feet. I could be the boy
wearing nothing, a negligee of gnats.

Related Poems

All the Trees of the Field Shall Clap Their Hands

Josefa Segovia was tried, convicted & hanged on July 5, 1851, in Downieville, California, for killing an Anglo miner, a man who the day before had assaulted her.


Are the knees & elbows 

     the first knots  
 
                     the dead untie?
 
       I swing from a rope
 
                     lashed
 
       to a beam. Some men
 
along the Yuba river
 
               toss coins
 
         into the doubling water.
 
                   Visible skin.
 
            Memorable hair.
 
     Imagine: coal, plow,
 
                     rust, century.
 
                 All layers
 
         of the same palabra.
 
                                       Once
 
I mistook a peach pit
 
               on a white dish
 
         for a thumbprint.
 
   Wolf counselor.
 
                       Reaper.
 
             Small rock.
 
   The knot just under
 
       my right ear
 
whispers God is gracious,
 
             God will

increase. The soul,
 
                   like semen,

       escapes
 
the body
 
         swiftly.