by Marilyn Nelson

Open-mouthed, we survey and appraise what is left.
The crushed stove. Our mattress. Part of a wall.
Intact, the table around which we laughed
so recently, glasses of tea aloft.
What can we do, but surrender to a higher will?

 

Poem copyright 2018 by Marilyn Nelson. All rights reserved.

&
See more poems from Marilyn Nelson debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle:
“Almost Sisters” and “Big Sister.”


Read more in this issue: Interview | Critical Essay | Writing Prompt

by Marilyn Nelson

For L. F.

Daughter, this is my daughter, my dad said.
He put the new baby into my arms.
She was beautiful, as small as a doll,
a warm package with long black eyelashes
and tiny fists with teensy fingernails.
She’d suddenly appeared from wherever
babies come from, maybe from a stork’s egg?
And here she was, my own little sister,
for me to play with and tell stories to:
the baby sister I’d asked Jesus for.
I could hardly take my eyes off of her face.
My dad gave me a push. Go on, he said;
take her to your mother. My mother’s eyes
narrowed with rage I didn’t understand.

Poem copyright 2018 by Marilyn Nelson. All rights reserved.

&
See more poems from Marilyn debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle:
Almost Sisters” and “Kismet.”

 


Read more in this issue: Interview | Critical Essay | Writing Prompt

by Marilyn Nelson

For L. L.

My half-sister, my stepsister, and I
slept on wall-to-wall mattresses
in a room that had no hiding places
but in our heads and under our blankets.
Averted eyes were our only privacy.
I never really liked my step-sister.
My half-sister was cute, but she told lies.
A marriage we’d had nothing to do with
bound us together, three sister strangers,
running the gauntlets at home and at school.
Life is no situation comedy.
For years we overheard sex noise and fights.
My sort-of-sisters left when my parents split.
I had my own room starting in seventh grade.

 

 

Poem copyright 2018 by Marilyn Nelson. All rights reserved.

&
See two more poems from Marilyn Nelson debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle:
Big Sister”  and  “Kismet.”


Read more in this issue: Interview | Critical Essay | Writing Prompt

by Kwame Dawes

Our bodies carry so many deceptions —
how easily the ritual of seasons
becomes us. It is wintering now
which means the tawny grass
is not an aberration; it is instead
the confirmation of rest, and so
it is with these hidden bodies.
I want to ask you if you will
not wear scarfs over your head
at predawn, on the road filled
with trigger-nervous Patriots —
this is the fear of our rituals.
Winter is the season of disguise;
we cover ourselves and become
a tribe of woolen fabrics — maybe
I can read your skin in your
walk. On deep, deep nights,
having idled until midnight,
the weekend ahead, I look at these
photographs of black folk gathered
around a piano — how secure
the imagined sweetness of sound
in the open mouths. And still
I know that beneath the fabric
there is the violence of nakedness,
and everybody is a corpse; is
this the language of grace?

Poem copyright 2018 by Kwame Dawes. All rights reserved.

&
See more poems from Kwame Dawes debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle:
The Tent of Gladness and The Middle Classes


Read more in this issue: Interview | Critical Essay | Writing Prompt

by Kwame Dawes

Take old baseball park staccato bodies
in candid surprise and that dumb
questioning look before recognition
or before thought arrives in the face,
and they say the voice, gravelly,
contained, is Babe Ruth, body eaten
away by cancer, and there they are,
the morose fans, outside the stadium,
lined on the streets, and I see your
brother, and you, too, as if this
is normal, this way your body
climbs over other bodies, white
men clamoring to see, too, and all
of you in fedoras and jackets, and
you wonder what freedom has
come to make this so ordinary
a day — but this is the art of silence,
the absence of smells, like a Rockwell
painting of a Parks photo of a family
cliché, mum and dad anchoring
the sofa, he with his newspaper
in shirt sleeves, she with her
knitting and stretched out on the
rug in teenage splendor, the daughter
doing her sums, and the draping
of filmy curtains, rising above
it all, and so silent in the ward,
that we can’t hear the scent of collards
and stale fish, or the sewer in the back,
but this is the art of a Dream,
and like old Ruth, we all will
die and not away, funking up the joint
in democratic splendor, dust to dust.

Poem copyright 2018 by Kwame Dawes. All rights reserved.

&
See more poems from Kwame Dawes debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle:
Singing Around the Piano and The Tent of Gladness

 


Read more in this issue: Interview | Critical Essay | Writing Prompt

by Kwame Dawes

We will pay what it costs for yards and yards
of women’s fabric, the centuries of learning
in the fingers of those who turn yarn into this
milky softness that allows the air to enter
and depart, this constant caress on all
skin. Even after the leathering of sun and dirt,
a body washed, talced and massaged,
welcomes the constant affection of the shawl:
it is how a woman loves herself — and when
she draws a child, scowling from the pain
of her scalp stretched to make the beautiful
sculpting of spindling lines, the patterns
of the earth as a crowning over her,
slowly the frown will soften at the protection
that it brings — we must at least say what
it is like: like prayer spilled on the heads
of the blessed; like the wall of a waterfall
sheltering those in the cave; like hiding inside
the voice of a woman singing songs of sweet
melancholy and nostalgia; it is like
the light falling through trees deep in the forest
where all the world has learned to pulse
with your heart’s beat; all one, all one.

 

 

Poem copyright 2018 by Kwame Dawes. All rights reserved.

&
See two more poems from Kwame Dawes debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle:
The Middle Classes  and  Singing Around the Piano


Read more in this issue: Interview | Critical Essay | Writing Prompt

by Anastacia-Reneé

Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.

we negros walk the path of self enlightenment
sweaty-holding brick light bulbs
with tiny watching white men as switch
                  on                    off
let them mark us in the day
with this thing & that thing
& this is what i mean to say when i say negro
say negro as in not black
but not human
& this is what i mean to say when i say nigger
as in not black & not human
& this is what i mean when i say walk the path
for the path is not a path
but a thorny renditition of woodsy

what i mean to say is we walk it
while running with out cerebellum shoes untied
as in we do not take heed
on                    off
we do not listen to what we are hearing (on the flipside)
as in do you hear me
as in are you listening
as in if you call upon me i will tell you my story
as in my story could be your story
if you only read what i was (not) about
but you as in your generation do not read anymore
your lifes s(spores) germinated atop links
& htmls & videos & i mean to say
i am not judging you but i am

& i wonder fellow children of my alphabet fucking
if you really miss me the way you say you do
if you really hold me in high esteem
on                    off
the way you do your coveted internet
if you would snatch me from a burning building
or watch my baldwin burn there
on your minimalist couch

 

Poem copyright 2018 by Anastacia-Reneé. All rights reserved.

&
See more poems from Anastacia-Reneé debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle:
on being free and The Mother Ship is Purple


Read more in this issue: Interview | Critical Essay | Writing Prompt