2016-2017 FINALIST, COG POETRY AWARDS

 

     Porky Pig Sits Next to a Boy in the Street

Dexter L. Booth

and eats lunch from a picnic

basket on a checkered blanket

the color of the nigger’s blood.

 

The neighborhood watch volunteer made sure

            a boy is just a body now.

                                   

The scattered crows return

and bow their heads

not to pray      thanks for this meal.   No,

 

they won’t take the body’s flesh       into their beaks,

            nor lick the crusted wounds,

 

but the pig cleans his entire face         with his tongue

            until all evidence of bread crumbs is gone.

                       

                                    That’s all, folks.        

 

            He who who grows tired of clichés

should avoid ‘30s cartoons                and the evening news.

 

                        [No Jail Time for Cop Who Shot Unarmed Black Man]

 

Operation Ghetto Storm.

 

                        [Another Unarmed Black Teen Shot and Killed…]

 

Every gun is a toy                  

 

—all the dead boys are pretending.   

The bullets are crazed canines.

 

                                    Freeze

 

while the articulated ham exits the scene       

 

            to sell his gun

            to the highest bidder, 

 

tell the media               the Guggenheim

wants to place it behind glass                         preserve it

like a mother’s memory of her only son.

 

The murder lifts the boy.

The murder buries the body

beneath the Echo Tree.

 

Pretend this show is not a rerun,

that we aren’t shot      for syndication,

another cartoon in which the dead won’t stay.

 

Come back.

 

Say it three times

loud as gunshots.

 

            Boy. Boy. Boy.

Rhapsody

—for Matthew

Dexter L. Booth

 

The baby is so fresh

it is holding the umbilical cord

in its fingers,

dust sticking to the vernix

and blood. The dust stalling

in the air over people

passing by. The free hand of the child

reaching back for something:

            mother-breast, raindrop, return

            to the birth chamber’s comfort.

 

The mother does not want this. She finds

a rock and grinds the cord until it tears.

 

From the sky, it looks as though someone smashed the heads

of two snakes as they were kissing.

 

                        *

 

Having just given birth, the woman-body is alchemical.

The mother cleans herself and walks away.

This is one Uganda. The Ik

people pass the child

all day. There is crying.

 

It is a necessary blindness,

this love. At sundown a tiger

is drawn to the wailing, hungry

and young. He places a paw

over the mouth of the newborn and feeds

for an hour. Finally,

 

the day disrobes, the cherried clouds

crawl back behind the mountain,

 

and it is Azrael who sweeps down

from the west on four thousand wings—

his four faces

blocking the sun—body

acned with eyes and tongues

 

singing—touching the child.

                       

*

 

I am listening to Gershwin

and remembering your retarded cousin

who told you she was in love with you

            (she said, in love)

and you knew:

the heart isn’t meant to drum forever. At least

not like this. As she was dying she wanted you

 

at her side. You

felt vile. Halfway to the hospital

you pulled over

on the side of the road

and waited until she stopped

thinking. How unholy,

 

your name.

The moon,

 

one light second away.

 

Abattoir

Dexter L. Booth

Because in Bladenboro a Black body hangs from a swing set,

pendulous, swaying, while sunlight entices the shadow to cincture

 

the remains. The flat-skulled Hill, where the cotton mill hides,

is guarded through the night by alabaster trailers

 

and the moon, that speechless puppeteer, leading the morte dance

with her pull—unable to migrate—to this,

 

Golgotha. By morning, the body is no longer

Lennon, the body is a body bruise bored through

 

by ants. The blue-black belted noose

held as Lennon fox-trotted towards Death.

 

And now come the snowy plovers with the burden of song:

He was seventeen. He was fucking a white woman. Again

 

the knights of the Ku Klux Clan tighten the hood

over the amygdala of the South. The cops say

 

it’s not against the law to put an animal down.

 

This tale is true:      Nihility.

 

Then a crow floating in on the shoulders of creation— dot of coal, mole,

feathered gob of blood.                       And this: The Whitney Plantation

 

now a museum.                                   And this:

 

the Holy Spirit spreading its curtain

 to reveal a monkey and banana.

 

(Don’t look away. Soon they will cue the laugh track and applause.)

 

Hold my hand,

let us survive by abetting

 

the birds predicting this storm—

the flutter of false-winged movement and silence,

with its paw wherever that pistol rests.

 

Something is swinging—

 

Moon Illusion-style above the grass: this, double speak for it was a

hungry winter.

 

The Moon of the Poplar Trees.

 

© 2015 Cogswell College •  191 Baypointe Parkway, San Jose, CA 95134 800.264.7955 • www.cogswell.edu