Dexter L. Booth is the author of Scratching the Ghost (Graywolf Press, 2013). His poems have been included in the anthology The Best American Poetry 2015 (edited by Sherman Alexie), as well as Blackbird, The Southeast Review, Ostrich Review, Grist, Willow Springs, Bat City Review, Virginia Quarterly, and other publications. Booth is currently a Contributing Editor for Waxwing, and a Ph.D. candidate and Provost Fellow at the University of Southern California.
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.
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.
Say it three times
loud as gunshots.
Boy. Boy. Boy.
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,
one light second away.
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
The Moon of the Poplar Trees.