On Seventh Avenue at Stop-Time

For Jean Toomer

rhythm’s a badge, beautiful & 
mystifying, an inside joke. collapsing 
bloodtypes with watery eyes,  
couples blanch under this slow grind 
this two-step, this islanded house  

folks call marriage. moving slowly from  
one room to the next; soul 
a devastated dwelling caught 
in some powerful 9th Ward of feeling. 
like shadows that trick us, 

caught in abjection’s swift traffic:  
old cooking smells, disconcerting bells  
fighting the slow wheels of the mind, 
its hiss a record spinning, tonearm 
a hunger confused with the ambling  

gallop of the pinto horse. astride 
the sound barrier, bones breaking 
like time in a song, its signature 
changing, a numbness, a de-  
compensation, startling 

as the angular blue house, dotted 
with the slow, dark cattle call of cause 
and effect. realms away a 
distant battalion, kit heaped & bound, 
propounds a modest physics while 

in the immediate vicinity:  
black so bright it’s yet to be divorced 
from the blockbusters of twitch. 
lives spent folding space; trains heading  
to all galactic points South. blinded 

by dust, what is news but the 
mendacity of slavers singing the torch  
song of the amnesiac, a sluggishness  
of the tongue you’d  
          have to know to hear 

Copyright © 2024 by Herman Beavers. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 12, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.