When Puffy says, and we won’ t stop, 'cause we can’ t stop.

I think of a good night’s sleep
an exhale taking its precious time

to leave my lungs         unworried
about the breathing to come       If only

I did not hail from the sweet state
of panic                               the town’s river,

my adrenaline raging without cease
I’d love peace but the moon is pulling me by my water

I know this is no way to live     but I was born here
a mobile of vultures orbiting above my crib

the noise you speak      bragging
about the luxury of your stillness

reminds me that some children are told to pick flowers
while others are told to pick a tree switch

that’ll best write a lesson across their hide
and my skin is a master course written in welts

I touch myself and read about the years
I cannot escape                              I hold my kids

and pray our embrace is not a history
repeating itself

More by Rasheed Copeland

to be considered before inviting everyone to The Cookout™

the gone did not go so that we’d endure
plucking grapes from the potato salad
we did not stretch Frankie Beverly’s voice
like a tent across this humble meadow
of amber folk sipping gold sun through skin
rejoicing over their continued breath
just for you to invite anyone in
able to pause the bloody legacy
and distract your eyes with a flimsy act
you break all the unwritten covenants
forged in the saved language of unmarked graves
those called to eat are those who starved with us
and not those whose mouths still water
when watching the grill’s flame lick Uncle’s arm

Related Poems

My Father Is a Retired Magician

(for ifa, p.t., & bisa)

my father is a retired magician
which accounts for my irregular behavior
everythin comes outta magic hats
or bottles wit no bottoms & parakeets
are as easy to get as a couple a rabbits
or 3 fifty cent pieces/ 1958

my daddy retired from magic & took
up another trade cuz this friend of mine
from the 3rd grade asked to be made white
on the spot

what cd any self-respectin colored american magician
do wit such a outlandish request/ cept
put all them razzamatazz hocus pocus zippity-do-dah
thingamajigs away            cuz
colored chirren believin in magic
waz becomin politically dangerous for the race
& waznt nobody gonna be made white
on the spot               just
from a clap of my daddy's hands

& the reason i'm so peculiar's
cuz i been studyin up on my daddy's technique
& everythin i do is magic these days
& it's very colored
very now you see it/ now you
dont mess wit me
                                i come from a family of retired
sorcerers/ active houngans & pennyante fortune tellers
wit 41 million spirits critturs & celestial bodies
on our side
                        i'll listen to yr problems
                        help wit yr career yr lover yr wanderin spouse
                        make yr grandma's stay in heaven more gratifyin
                        ease yr mother thru menopause & show yr son
                        how to clean his room

YES YES YES                             3 wishes is all you get
           scarlet ribbons for yr hair
                 benwa balls via hong kong
                        a miniature of machu picchu

all things are possible
but aint no colored magician in her right mind
gonna make you    white
                i mean
                              this is blk magic
you lookin at
                                 & i'm fixin you up good/ fixin you up good n colored
& you gonna be colored all yr life
& you gonna love it/ bein colored/ all yr life/ colored & love it
love it/ bein colored/

Spell #7 from Upnorth-Outwest Geechee Jibara Quik Magic Trance Manual for Technologically Stressed Third World People

The Children

Sometimes I dream of a slave ship docking at port
& my grandmother has brought me here. She takes my hand
(in the dream I am very young) as we watch the children
disembark. The children are lithe & descend one after
another after another—squinting, lifting their hands to shield
their eyes from the burning light of this new country.
I ask her: But will they be loved? She rubs my head &
says: The lack of it isn’t the worst thing to happen
to them. Think of all the ways what is not love comes for us,
sometimes parading itself as obligation, or the violence
we bear & soon they won’t distinguish one from the other.
The hurt itself will be a kind of attention.
A boy hears
us talking & stares right back at me. He is black, blacker
than anyone I’d ever seen—iridescent, glowing with it.
I’m so moved that I dart between the guards toward him
& hold him in my arms & where I touch him, feathers
grow. The boy sprouts wings & lifts from the earth.
We are transfixed—me & grandmamma & children & the guards-
gazing upward. At first, he careens away, then back toward us
only to ascend, blacking out the sun until he climbs
high enough that he is swallowed by it altogether.

Is It True All Legends Once Were Rumors

And it was as we’d been told it would be: some stumbling wingless;
others flew beheaded. But at first when we looked at them, we could
see no difference, the way it can take a while to realize about how
regretfulness is not regret. As for being frightened: though for many
animals the governing instinct, when most afraid, is to attack, what about
the tendency of songbirds, in a storm, toward silence—is that fear, too?
For mostly, yes, we were silent—tired, as well, though as much out of
boredom as for the need to stretch a bit, why not the rest on foot, we
at last decided—and dismounting, each walked with his horse close
beside him. We mapped our way north by the stars, old school, until there
were no stars, just the weather of childhood, where it’s snowing forever.