Men of the moving company arrive
in gray crew neck shirts and hard-toe boots,
carrying dollies, ropes and quilts,
a few songs and small talk
to pass the time. They lift, pull
and raise, then sail the séance
of grit golden sands.
They pull cups, pour water,
and pass bread, potatoes and fried meat.
These cocoa-tinted, bred, burned,
branded and bull-whipped men
have barely begun to move.
It’s only morning. Give them a day.

Stars

New Orleans, a Tuesday, 7:30 A.M.
I’m sipping coffee at a McDonald’s on Canal
when two young black men, early twenties perhaps,
walk in, buying nothing. Suddenly,
I’m aboard a mothership,
streaking toward the farthest stars.

One, like a fly, bobs the aisles, sweaty
in his Crown Royal muscle shirt.
Gym shorts hanging off his ass,
headset in his ears, he pantomimes
a singer and dances a Mardi Gras mambo
in July, with himself, second-lining
silky-smoothly across the floor, out the door,
onto the parking lot—his own block party
without the block.

The other, well-groomed, small backpack,
talks loudly, eloquently to himself
about home, what it is, isn’t and should be, then,
facing the faces, he launches a soliloquy
of senseless babble,
and you sense the other—
the voices, a stage, curtain and cast,
his fans and followers looking on,
inside his head.

I’m gazing stars. Drawn to the glow
of their wayward worlds,
I can’t help
but pause, watch and listen.
I’m entertained,
but scared, because they’re black men
and I’m one, too,
with a son and grandsons of my own,
and I can’t help
but ponder: what’s loose,
what’s broken, what’s gone wrong,
what’s the fix?

Renaissance Man

After Liston, they fell like dominoes:
Folley, Terrell, Williams, Mildenberger,
London, Cooper, Chuvalo, and Patterson,
dizzied by his lightning quick jabs
and the waltz of his dazzling white shoes,
sparkling like chrome
as he bicycled across the canvas.

We stood witness to the creation
of modern day myth—Black Superman
from Krypton, Kentucky,
undefeated god of the ring,
clairvoyant and charismatic,
denigrating and taunting challengers

while staring into his crystal ball.

He wanted to go to heaven so I beat him in seven.
It ain’t no jive, he’ll go in five.
He might be great but he’ll fall in eight.

Ali vernacular.
Ali meter.
Ali rhyme.
Ali renaissance:
        black beauty,
        black ballet,
        black poetry
        on the wings of a butterfly,

with foot work, hand speed, and power
that whupped ass.   

All Black Boys Look Alike

If you sit a few feet away
from this hand fan that once advertised
Amos Moses Barber Shop in New Orleans,
or if you hold it under a dimly glowing light
in a darkened, half-empty room,

            all you see are eighteen black boys,

their moon-shaped heads
tilting in slightly different directions,
hair trimmed low or nearly bald,
and foreheads bulging
like summer-blooming bulbs.

Their faces tell nothing
            of what they feel and see,

                          what men they will become,
            and what they don’t know
            of days they have yet to live,

when eyes that look at them will shut,
and they will be unseen, untaught,
passed by, forgotten, called other names,
or arrested, handcuffed, and jailed
for crimes they didn’t commit,

or maybe they will vanish
in the night inside an alley, a forest
or a river, or be left to dangle
            and drip from the branch of a tree,

and like clouds of smoke,
their brown skin and charred dreams
            will eclipse the rays beaming
            toward the feet of their children.

Inside brightly-lit, crowded rooms
built of race-etched stone walls
that gird and divide their country,
these boys are the faces of all black men.