by Amanda Johnston

for Shamika Wilson, mother of Draylon Mason

and one day the sky opens and a voice says now and after decades of church on sunday bible study on wednesday grace and faith over every meal and heads bowed you look up and scream

no

and it is done the hand that hovers eternally points its long finger and touches the body and the armor wrapped with faith wrapped with prayer wrapped in the blood now soaked in loss and grieving goes quiet so quiet you could fool yourself into thinking it is all a dream

Poem copyright 2022 by Amanda Johnston. All rights reserved.

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See more poems from Amanda Johnston debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle: It Begins,”  “Two Americas,” and “How Do I Explain.


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

by Amanda Johnston

A friend says online shopping is great!
You come home and there are packages
waiting for you like little gifts.
You should do it.
You deserve it.
It’s so much fun!

My daughter is afraid to open the door.
I check the front yard for tripwire, mumble
a little prayer– take me, take me.

Poem copyright 2022 by Amanda Johnston. All rights reserved.

&
See more poems from Amanda Johnston debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle: It Begins,”  “untitled,” and “How Do I Explain”


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

by Amanda Johnston

         
            March 2, 2018, the first package bomb detonates in Pflugerville, Texas

What does a bomb sound like when everything is exploding?

The coffee pot drips into mourning with the eerie buzz

of cars on the verge of collision. The world and its infinite

brink of life and breath, in and out, small bursts of the day-to-day.

And then a loud note cuts through a quiet street

announcing a terror, that has always been—is—

awake and hungry.  

Poem copyright 2022 by Amanda Johnston. All rights reserved.

&
See more poems from Amanda Johnston debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle: “Two Americas,”  and “untitled,”  and “How Do I Explain.”How Do I Explain


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

by Amanda Johnston

A coworker sees me crying at the copier. I don’t know how to explain, so I don’t. She asks if I like poetry and says there is a poet I should check out named Maya Ange –

I go deaf and close my eyes relying on the machine in front of me to continue its business
and hold me up with the flow of industry and all that shows I have value.

A boy, this time, opened a box in his kitchen with his mother.
A world stops. The machine goes on.

 

 

Poem copyright 2022 by Amanda Johnston. All rights reserved.

&
See more poems from Amanda Johnston debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle: It Begins,”  “Two Americas,” and untitled.”


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

by A. Van Jordan

“…I am dead.
Thou livest; report me and my cause aright
To the unsatisfied.”
                  Hamlet Act 5, Scene 2

                  the body’s shadow
had much to say,
but no one in ear shot
understood its language

                 ~

                   the clouds stood heavy,
and when the cops confronted the body…

                  ~

             the boy showed his prowess to indulge in play,
just one of his many gifts,
which scared onlookers

                 ~

            no black man appeared in the park,
just a child, just people judging him

                 ~

          as he approached,
she wondered how she’d explain him
to her father

                  ~

          the opportunities for joy
presented themselves
in more colors than the boy
could name, so he chose black,
enjoying them all

                 ~

         passersby who laughed at him
showed their gratitude by memorizing his face,
then by wielding his visage whenever
they found themselves in a jam

                ~

          was his laughter a declaration
of his joy or a sacred prayer
offered over poor souls resigned to their fate

                 ~

          corn chips, black licorice, marbles,
plastic pellets, toy gun, jaw breakers,
bubble gum: crushed apogee of memory

                 ~

         when he imagines knowing then what he now knows,
he imagines dying before his time

                 ~

          a jar of preserved pears,
canned by his grandmother,
occupies his mind. When he gets home…

                 ~

          a man beats a drum in courtship to his beloved…
nah, a boy dribbles a basketball,
boasting of his youth

                 ~

        a saga took place in the mind of the police,
as they glimpsed the black child,
who was caught smiling as he walked toward them

                 ~

        his sister’s scream, pulled
from a well too black to ring shallow,
echoes whenever his name …

Poem copyright 2022 by A. Van Jordan. All rights reserved.

&
See two more poems from A. Van Jordan debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle: Bored, Tamir Chooses to Dream,”  and  “Hex


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

by A. Van Jordan

Well, once a path is chosen, there’s no limit
            to where you might arrive. Imagine his playing,
high above layered rooftops and along the edges

of trees; at one point, following the curving line
            of the park or the grade of the grass;
at another, the invisible whims of the breeze.

Imagine him sheering off as soon as the range
           of the city’s rooftops disappear and deciding
here, here is where I’ll drum, here is where I’ll

 play the cop and the robber, and here I’ll
            fall asleep like a bird, tucked head under wing,
a world of limbs and leaves to support me.

Once a boy dreams, there’s no limit
            to where he might soar off, above
pointing fingers and straining voices

trying to name his species. A boy
           like that would seek a laughter
loud enough to reach him

above anything pointed at him,
           above anyone approaching him,
above any sound thin enough to pass

through the gossamer of his dreams
           and just disappearing into a murmur
below him too faint to offer a reason

           to look at what could possibly disturb
the object of his day.

Poem copyright 2022 by A. Van Jordan. All rights reserved.

&
See two more poems from A. Van Jordan debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle: Fragments of Tamir’s Body,”  and  “Hex


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

by A. Van Jordan

after Lynda Hull

The day of the spell was the day of cast shadows,
of diaphanous figures whipped clean of fear,
angels ablaze sailing a coastline of hushed tête-à-têtes,
adagio tenor wails laced with rage, smoke rising
from the wails, from the laughter; just when
the last local trains crawled into stations;

just when televisions grew verdigris in homes, obsolete
from indolence; just when black signatories erased
their names and put on their boots, cirrus streaks formed
on the skyline of the city. A mother held her
barely alive son, the son to whom she vowed
protection from harm. Having thrown a circle

of goofer dust to enclose her enemies, she raises
a totem over her head. It’s now time: Let her wield
the words of black declensions, new vowels,
the best nouns of home training, of damn good sense.
Let her sit for a spell, wipe sleep from her eye.
Let her obtain a license for what’s lethal

from whatever God has taken her image,
whenever the sun comes over the buildings,
whenever the moon weighs more than the sun,
more than Pisces and Neptune. Walk to
a street corner with plenty of witnesses,
where you’ll bear no isolation,
sing your words facing North or even higher.

Now, walk backward through the chains
of time from each past and current hindrance
to our future. Invoke the names of those
not ceding privilege in boardrooms, the ones who oppress
to their graves. Now summon each forgotten spirit,
each fallen son. Bless each prayed-up grandmother,

each open door and vivid corridor. Bless the pains
spared you, vicarious to you, passed down in your blood,
carrying you through the dangers and the echoes of time.
Remember: family echoes within your body; history
pulls through you as you move through a day.
Raise them in this… prayer, let’s call it,

to that God who took your image.
Go to the tree, to the home, to the street corner,
and spread these words–tossing wreaths,
spinning incantations–where torn
life collapsed under a last breath.

Poem copyright 2022 by A. Van Jordan. All rights reserved.

&
See two more poems from A. Van Jordan debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle: Fragments of Tamir’s Body,”  and  “Bored, Tamir Chooses to Dream


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

by Cyrus Cassells

1

Mister, from love’s keening distance,
I send you dread, discord,

A dead pauper’s
Unerring kiss, “double, double,

Toil and trouble”—the foraged
Bolts, welts, and buffoonish stitches

Of your own meandering,
Pell-mell Frankenstein;

From Lady Justice’s impeccable scales,
I bequeath you

A child’s flimsy cootie-catcher,
Opened to the words

Comb-over or Snake!—
A throwaway crown, a fake,

Fracked-to-the-hilt
Share of heirloom land,

Acres of unsellable real estate
On the very dissipated earth

You doggedly lacerated
And dismantled—

At an eleventh hour, when the lollygagging,
Wall-building, around-the-clock inanities,

 

2

And countless renegade cruelties
Have ceased to grow and cascade

Like Rapunzel’s hair,
And the glittering hourglass sands

Have nearly halted,
Apprentice felon, primetime charlatan,

Un-budging jester on the Hill,
May the emperor-is-naked folderol,

The blight of your slipknot reign,
Your slap-shrill tenure,

Shock your tattered soul in full…

 

Poem copyright 2021 by Cyrus Cassells. All rights reserved.

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See two more poems from Cyrus Cassells debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle: Maples Anticipating Their Autumn Colors,”  and  “My Only Bible


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

by Cyrus Cassells

Yoshi, at your sudden death,
What stays under my lids, in my body,

After decades: how we biked
The placid length of Kannonji,

Pedaling past ample rice fields
And Shikoku’s ramshackle docks,

The ragtag blue stacks
Of an imposing factory in the distance—

Beside an uphill shrine,
Its irrepressible maples anticipating

Their vibrant autumn colors,
We found an unlikely vendor

Hawking Cokes and gimcrack prayer beads,
His piped-in koto music

Sinuous among the pines,
A midsummer effort to conjure

The melancholy female ghost
Who lingered and sang on the glinting slope,

Her inescapable voice calling down a god
In the form of a crane,

Its white wings dripping
The cool water of Ursa Major—

 

 

Poem copyright 2021 by Cyrus Cassells. All rights reserved.

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See two more poems from Cyrus Cassells debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle: My Only Bible,”  and  “The Absence of the Witch Does Not Invalidate the Spell


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

by Cyrus Cassells

Is this blood-red joy
Of breathing beside you

And never divining
Your next beguiling voilà:

For instance, the nubile lemon
You culled in Sóller,

Brand new husband,
Shines, sun-blond and solid,

On the sill,
Pure as a murex shell

Or a nomad’s wish—
No wind whistles down

From the timeless sierra,
So after our solstice vows,

You press your apt citrus’s
Soothing, gently cooling rind

First to my lips,
Then my slightly sunburned nape—

Finally setting it to rest
On my shirtless torso;

With this honeymoon abracadabra
As nimble cue,

Let me linger and praise
The hermitage and gleaming groves

Above the cobbled village
Where your harlequin mother was born,

The gospel of bougainvillea
At your boyhood gate—the apotheosis,

Bridegroom, balm-giver,
Bell-clear dreamer,

Of your own full blossoming
And transfixing flair,

Of the soul’s endless, luxuriant
Coming and becoming…

 

 

Poem copyright 2021 by Cyrus Cassells. All rights reserved.

&
See two more poems from Cyrus Cassells debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle: Maples Anticipating Their Autumn Colors,”  and  “The Absence of the Witch Does Not Invalidate the Spell


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