poem starting with a line from Anne Winters
In close ups, you can see it
on their faces — triumph blossoming
in their bubble-O eyes and the "oh shit"
stuck on confused mouths.
Drink Water laid out
across the gym tile. It started in
the locker room. Something about
Jay's mom having no neck and
how she waddles when she walks.
In high school, Drink’s 6-foot-1
and 230 lbs. made him the misfortune
of smaller brothas — tossing their backpacks
down stairwells, smacking their heads,
tripping them in the halls.
He once bumped you with his shoulder,
then said, "Watch it, nigga!"
Watching him strut through the lockers and
benches, punching combinations,
daring Jay to respond, you remember
the local boxer in Hands On Barbers —
sporting his gold chain and Cartier watch,
reliving fight highlights, talking shit:
"Don't nobody wanna see these hands.
They night-night a muhfucka real quick."
That’s before a fat man folded him
at the shop entrance.
And you knew then
that heroes always cross that line
to knock the world back on balance,
the way skinny Jay did, spilling Drink
with a baptism of punches.
The Island of Smiles
The world once beyond the end
of my thumb...is now inside us. Everything
we’ve lived is now part of us
—Jack Myers, "Doggies' Day Out"
Candlelight fingering our misty limbs
and you nibbling a happy earlobe
makes our living room a glad
sanctuary of plush red cushions.
The raspberry- scented hookah
haze makes the air seem edible.
Your spicy tongue rolls the hours
back to us strolling through
Adam's Morgan and your sly smile
when you said The birthday girl
gets what she wants.
That was after fried plantains
and beef pepper stew egusi with fish
and white rice. It was after us
head-bobbing to bass guitars
throbbing reggae inside Bukom.
To think that finding you, and our life
as newlyweds, was once a world
that seemed beyond me — an island
of floating cabins singing toucans
and water so green
it emeralds in daylight.
I was a sad astronomer,
watching the sky and cursing
the improbable distance 'til a friend’s
invitation to hangout got us together
that night shuffled in the years
stacked behind us.
If every moment we live
is now part of us, tonight,
we’re a rainy evening and a cramped
We're the storm-glazed streets
outside Bazaar Atlas — you haggling
a Moroccan merchant's price
on hand-sewn leather sandals
and sweet shisha tobacco.
We're the ride home before
the sandalwood's burnt offering,
before the tiger's eye shimmer
on your thighs from a small flame's
Alan King is an author, poet, and journalist. He writes about art and other issues on his blog at alanwking.com. He’s a Cave Canem graduate fellow and an alumnus of the VONA Workshops sponsored by Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation. He holds a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the Stonecoast Low-Residency Program at the University of Southern Maine. He's a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee and was also nominated twice for a Best of the Net selection. Drift (Aquarius Press, 2012) is his first book.