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Marcus Wicker

Marcus Wicker is the author of Silencer (Mariner Books, 2017) and Maybe the Saddest Thing (Harper Perennial, 2012), which won the National Poetry Series and was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award. He has received fellowships from Cave Canem, the Fine Arts Work Center, and the Poetry Foundation. Wicker is the poetry editor of Southern Indiana Review, and he teaches at the University of Memphis.

By This Poet

8

Deer Ode, Tangled & Horned

Always the sun first
then the doe sunning, the stag
running toward the doe, wherein

this ramshackle causality
a taste for flesh buds
at birth—when mouth clasps

to breast—quieting
the gut’s ache, not hunger
for touch. If you don’t believe

touch is a famine
fed by need, in another
scene, see an orphaned fawn

bow before a block of salt
crowned on the lone stump
in a clearing where sudden

wind has instructed him
in a lick’s dripping scent.
Right. Now, who then

betrays his permanence
but the huntsmen—
himself? Who then but palette—

appetite’s kissing cousin, driven
only by science of nature—
O Desire, you mother—

You Adam
of the valley, crouched
with a catcher’s mitt

always signaling for the quince
to roll downhill. You’re not much
of a nurturer from behind

this rifle scope,
especially on nights when
I am Lot’s hermaphrodite wife—

all pillar
& looking back
on my downfall from the future

which is surely paradise
or purgatory, depending
on how I decipher my scripture, O

Desire, if you’re a Catholic’s
Tree of Life I must be Buddhist-
free. I’m not interested

in you for the progeny
so much as your skyscraping—
your telephone poles—miraculous,

glazed, glistening with December’s
beckoning slick—crisscrossed
with tiny horizontal beams, wired-

horizon & morning dew,
forming, Dear Sire,
your anointing—this

intimately connected rosary
I can’t help but prick
my tongue to.
 

Watch Us Elocute

June 18, 2015
 
So I’m at this party, right. Low lights, champagne, Michael
Bublé & a gang of loafers I’m forever dancing around
 
in unduly charged conversations, your favorite
accompanist—Bill Evans behind Miles, ever present
 
in few strokes—when, into the room walks
this potentially well-meaning Waspy woman obviously
 
from Connecticut-money, boasting an extensive background
in nonprofit arts management. & without much coaxing
 
from me, really, none at all, she whoops, Gosh, you’re just
so well spoken! & I’m like, Duh, Son. So then we both
 
clink glasses, drink to whatever that was. Naturally,
not till the next morning & from under a scalding
 
shower do I shout: Yes, ma’am. Some of us does talk good!
to no one in particular but the drain holes. No one
 
but the off-white tile grout, the loofah’s yellow pores.
Because I come from a long braid of dangerous men
 
who learned to talk their way out of small compartments.
My own Spartan walls lined with their faces—Ellison
 
& Ellington. Langston, Robeson. Frederick Douglass
above the bench press in the gym, but to no avail—
 
Without fail, when I’m at the Cross Eyed Cricket
(That’s a real diner. It’s in Indiana.) & some pimple-
 
face ginger waiter lingers nervous & doth protest
too much, it’s always Sir, you ever been told you sound like
 
Bryant Gumbel? Which is cute. Because he’s probably
ten. But then sometimes I sit in his twin’s section, & he
 
once predicted I could do a really wicked impression
of Wayne Brady. I know for a fact his name is Jim.
 
I’ve got Jim’s eighteenth birthday blazed on my bedside
calendar. It reads: Ass whippin’. Twelve a.m.—& like
 
actually, that woman from the bimonthly
CV-building gala can kick rocks. Because she’s old
 
enough to be my mother, & educated, if only
by her own appraisal, but boy. Dear boys. Sweet
 
freckled What’s-His-Face & Dipshit Jim,
we can still be play friends. Your folks didn’t explain
 
I’d take your trinket praise as teeny blade—
a trillionth micro-aggression, against & beneath
 
my skin. Little buddies, that sore’s on me.
I know what you mean. That I must seem, “safe.”
 
But let’s get this straight. Let’s call a spade a—
Poor choice of words. Ali, I might not
 
be. Though, at the very least, a heavyweight
throwback: Nat King Cole singing silky
 
& subliminal about the unforgettable model
minority. NBC believed N at & his eloquence
 
could single-handedly defeat Jim Crow.
Fact: They were wrong. Of this I know
 
& not because they canceled his show
in ’57 after one season, citing insufficient
 
sponsorship. Or because, in 1948,
the KKK flamed a cross on his LA lawn.
 
But because yesterday, literally yesterday,
some simple American citizen—throwback
 
supremacist Straight Outta Birmingham, 1963—
aimed his .45 & emptied the life from nine
 
black believers at an AME church in Charleston.
Among them a pastor-senator, an elderly tenor,
 
beloved librarian, a barber with a business degree
who adored his mom & wrote poems about
 
the same age as me. I’m sorry. No, friends.
None of us is safe.
 

Prayer on Aladdin's Lamp

Grant me shelter & bread.
Grant me porch ledge, mantel.
Scented candles, bed. Grant me
four walls, a 5-foot fridge & a hall.
& maybe four more walls. Yes.
Four more walls. & a desk. & 
a decent laptop, plus pleather
rolling chair. So that I might sit
&  write you a poem, Lord.
A psalm praising all you’ve given:
Air I sing with. Cricket’s falsetto.
Buzzing bees & nectar—
how chrysanthemum feels
on the tongue
is what you are to me.
You see what I am doing here.
You see, I am being so sincere,
Sire. Which is sad. Still, grant me
a few free hours each day. Grant me
a Moleskine pad & a ballpoint pen
with some mass. Grant me your gift
of this voice. Pages & pages 
of this voice, in a good book
from a loving press. & grant me 
a great love, too. Grant a way
to provide for my love. Like,
a tenure-track job
at a small college in the Midwest.
The kind with poems
& papers to read. With hoodies
running in & out of my office.
Deadline, paychecks, & 
an OK 401(k). Grant me
everything, Lord. Not today.
But before 28. Be Bulldozer.
Genie. Let every prayer avalanche
me into dust, blank matter. Debris.
Make me worthy. O Lord, make me me.