K. Avvirin Gray was a semi-finalist in the Boston Review 2019 Annual Poetry Contest.
for Sojourner Truth
Filament of layered light littered on the plate: a photographic triptych to behold: the stark Quaker garb you adapted in the early 1860s (black shawl, white skirt, cane whittled as an awl) draping your three poses. Gone then the wild days of the ’30s when the white girl lay abed with you as the Prophet did her, kissing you all over after you’d both removed your shoes, her marveling at your height in the night’s hailstorm.With he who called himself Prophet away in the city it was alright; all the birds were starlings and you considered less your son Peter’s fate, that he played dice with those Irish boys and assumed that dignified Negro’s name when cops asked why he was out late. Peter, now gone and ghosted in the hulls of a great ship, a seafarer writing you letter after letter knowing full well he could have done better, knowing as well you cannot read, and would not reply anyway with Ann—fakefrail and flailing—the one slipping neat nails through the neck of his letters, simpering at you as if she did not sip from the syrup of your black body on rain-lit nights.
John Brown’s Body
[Antigone and her blue-uniformed corpse.
Come dawn, and carrion, Creon crawls North.
You are bastard and brother both,
Islands of washer women, working free, fucked in all matters civic, yet favored by the gods, float on foot, having felled the house that bound them. Singing what your body became, they converge on Union camps, hum, shoulder each other like wedded wheat bared to sun—kin to them who’d walked, run guns the day of the raid, when you, God-crazed, stalked the federal ferry in VA. “He has gone to be a soldier in the army of the lord” they tell those who will hear. Marking their music, your graffitied hanged-man’s body, which “lays a’ mouldering in the grave” greets what it sees in the watchfires:
Antigone and her union north.
Alienesque, blue-bodied, torched.