Out of the Woods

Krista Franklin
On the way to water, I think, low
moan, heat too deep for me

to reach. A new noise
from a vent in the paper palace. Before,

I bounce off brick
wall, begging for a change;

the door swings open and unhinges
me to the nail. I heard ssssSMH behind me;

you not ready. As it turns out, ticks,
like cops, have a taste for black blood.

The mosquitos made a meal of me
for weeks—their walking Slurpee.

One stuck his straw in my third eye. I spell
him struck blind. My friends compile lists

of things they never knew, read me
for filth. I say in every language, I don’t have

the answers. They don’t believe me.
I stop buying tickets to the shit

show, but no matter the distance,
the smell is pervasive. In the woods,

I learned baby wolves get high
from the scent of hearts bursting

on their Instagram feeds. Serotonin
is a helluva drug. In the clearing, I strain

to hear the echoes of men whose bodies
drag the forest floor. Unfortunately, all

the witnesses withered seventy winters ago.
Blood is a potent fertilizer.

Related Poems

For the City that Nearly Broke Me

A woman tattoos Malik’s name above
her breast & talks about the conspiracy
to destroy blacks. This is all a fancy way
to say that someone kirked out, emptied
five or six or seven shots into a still warm body.
No indictment follows Malik’s death,
follows smoke running from a fired pistol.
An old quarrel: crimson against concrete
& the officer’s gun still smoking.
Someone says the people need to stand up,
that the system’s a glass house falling on only
a few heads. This & the stop snitching ads
are the conundrum and damn all that blood.
All those closed eyes imagining Malik’s
killer forever coffled to a series of cells,
& you almost believe them, you do, except
the cognac in your hand is an old habit,
a toast to friends buried before the daybreak
of their old age. You know the truth
of the talking, of the quarrels & how
history lets the blamed go blameless for
the blood that flows black in the street;
you imagine there is a riot going on,
& someone is tossing a trash can through
Sal’s window calling that revolution,
while behind us cell doors keep clanking closed,
& Malik’s casket door clanks closed,
& the bodies that roll off the block
& into the prisons and into the ground,
keep rolling, & no one will admit
that this is the way America strangles itself.