Short Stack with Switch Monkey
I'm a free wheel. Got no one telling me the can or can't do.
So when this jeans-too-tight-to-breathe strolled into Miz
Willie's Grill, I liked the cut of his kerchief right off. Knew
he knew things I wouldn't know in a lifetime: how to bail
it in, strut in company jewelry, and play the glory hunter.
That's why I wanted him. Him straddled out at counter's end,
nursing a cup o' joe hotter than Yuma's breath, looking neither
left nor right, just talking to Miz Willie who didn't look left
nor right or give a damn about anything he said. But I did.
So I sidled up to the counter, took the stool two stools away
and bought another cup while I listened to him blow smoke.
Listened to his world of slow train, hotshot, piggy-back. Heard
how he'd catch out ahead of the bull, drug runners, and ramblers
with romance on their minds, trying to follow him out past
San Berdu, all the way to Baxter Springs. Listened long enough
to know he'd never tie on to a can or can't do or to me. Finished
my cup o' mud and lit out - full on a cheap pie card, a rail fan
looking for a local load, all smiles from a stack of short love.
The Unworshipped Woman
break her down or reek so
the way she do
nothing got her unzipped mind
for a dog's millennium
to her un-borns she pale smoke
shadow in the distance
she a train whistler's whistle
this unworshipped this woman
she come like salt lick she go down
like a drowning man hollering for one last last
her story hung like seaweed
jawbone jammed on
coiled with September twatterlight
so tight even owls won't hoot
pass by them longing, on
the color of peril
round a hollow in her twisted back
Seed of Mango, Seed of Maize
I saw one of the grandmothers only once
in a photograph.
Short and sturdy she was, a black black Carib
with a forehead wide as the sea
that kisses Port Elizabeth
and a nose broad as the nostrum of Admiralty Bay.
her breath was fume of coconut and allspice,
mango and frangipani,
black bird and blue sky,
was the isle of Bequia.
She conjured a daughter,
then jinxed another,
and they bedeviled five daughters between them,
and I am one of those flying fish.
The other grandmother I composed from myth
and half-told stories.
She was a red-red Cheyenne -
much chased -
sported a thick reed of braid
pulled off from her forehead,
wide as Dakota
before it was north and south.
She hisses warnings across ten, then ten times
ten more years to a son
who reshapes them for me
in my dreams, sometimes in my waking.
As flute, blue maize, dance of the sun, she comes
crow on the wing, singing up the ghosts,
and I am one of those - a ghost, singing.