The Black Outside

Relying a little less on the odd language we’d been left inside
we turned back to feeling: —
                                                       more moan, more mumble.
Stuck in the soulless market, it’s debridement of language
from meaning, we still had soul: —
                                                       glory after we’d come to a place
without glory, tenderness after we’d been made symbol
of brutes. Sweet & soft mumbling: —
                                                       the language of antiquity, of gods
stretching toward other gods, pleading for the love that deserves
an organ, a horn section:—
                                                       Al’s whine connecting
our unrequited love to our unrequited history. Let him riff
there for as long as it takes: —
                                                       sound to cross the sea,
for the time it takes my grandmother, losing her memory, to talk
about the weather: —
                                                       as a way to slow down a little
& find our music, to echolocate as plant-humans, to feel our way
towards each other: —
                                                       in the Black Outside. Song
from the solar plex slipping past the tangle of tongues, soothing
the clockheart singing the end: —
                                                       my hands the only hands to touch
its hours. Let time wait on the band playing in a bar on Beale Street
with no concept of time: —
                                                       let it understand Black song
as ubiquitous. Blackness as ontological surrealism. Language as a thief
that has disappeared: —
                                                       souls only sound can restore:—

                                                                                   Dear beloved, when you
                                                                                   get right down to it, when
                                                                                   you’re feeling lonely: —


Outside Memphis

Even the fires
                               — :three along the highway: —
ignited by the right angle of wind,
                                            a cigarette flicked thoughtless
               as a gnat.
                                 Knowing the small probability
of miracles,
              I protect my serotonin, guard

              my feelings, all summer, I eat
immaculately: — bright
               berries and leaves, fish
                               the color of sunset: —

                               the audacity of it to open me: —

                                               that stunning sunset outside Memphis: —

               right before I entered the woods.
                            Those hidden towns
unincorporated in swamp, blips
               whirring past like chances. Fear
                               washed over me as the light went maroon.

               Where was I? Deep in a place
from which I might never emerge: —

               until I saw the sign
               Birthplace of Isaac Hayes

                               which I saw because I slowed down
               because I’d been made willing
by that sunset            to let whatever must happen          happen: —

               The sun and moon hung the same height
                               in the sky

I started to speak to you then

                                as if you were in the car, fumbled prayers.

               You’d been helping me forget
                                             my hopelessness, the atmosphere: — listen

               to me, please: — was right for it.

                             I said something like addiction
               is a coward’s place between
living and suicide. The bottle can seem

               better than living in fear, a feel-good escape,
                             a white cape spread round
               as a moon on a soul singer crooning

               I’m never gonna give you up

to someone who isn’t there.
               Eula gave birth to Isaac in a tin shack
                             and died within the year. She never made it out

               of these lonely woods

Isaac sang his way out: —

                                                         In the windshield, just now, a star
                                           falling. I follow it into the city
                              like a lover needing to be led

into belief, I let it pull me toward you
               down this lonesome road: —


Sans Souci

Pèkari was the keeper of my loneliness.
I found her because she carried the musk
of a god, held my spirit outside
my body, trapped in the New World’s

strange time. Our grievous heartbeats,
their titanic tectonics, moved against
its infinite expansion. While she charged
through the forests, I held my body

like a stone. I sharpened ma machette.
I made the mountain & mud my home.
I killed 400 men before I followed my father
into the ocean. When I could not pass

back over the rupture, I stole down
the volcano road to Cristophe’s bayonet
with a precious smile. To be a man’s ghost,
his only company, is the final curse.

The missing body of the colonel, I hear
them say. But, no matter: — my spirit
is in the palace, its ruins. In the javelina
running through the forests of Haïti.