by Yusef Komunyakaa

When I first went down South
I heard folks humming “Dixie,”
half lost in Tin Pan Alley.
Back then I’d tap the root
of a feeling, turn it over
& jot an X on the devil’s
left foot to hoodwink
phantoms in cobalt ash.

Yeah, I was only a boy
from a company town,
one side of my street
brown-jug square dance
& the other side jitterbug,
but as I rocked on my heels
a brand new healing song
sprung outta night’s clay.

When I came back to town
I said to cousin Bright One,
Why are these outlaw drugs
on every neon corner?
With hands on wide hips,
she gazed up at noon, grinned,
& said, Brother Man, don’t you
know who runs the jolly boats
& twin-engine planes, who lives
in a gated cabal of plush green
lawns once big fields of soybean
& corn or landing circles for UFOs
decades ago? Can’t you taste war
in the water, in burning air? Yeah,
you must follow me back to what’s
rooted in black soil along a creek
where you can conjure a cutting
hoorah of birds singing baritone.

Yesterday I took an evening walk
along the West Highway bike path
overlooking the Hudson, as her torch
brightened the city’s mood swing,
& I said, What’s a damn heel spur
anyway? Is it stony, does it work
into a man’s brain? I know my feet
still remember the weeds & gravel
of country roads. My left leg is good,
but the spring of others undercut
my pace, & I think there should be
a real sharp pain in my right foot.

Yeah, I say, “Stars Fell On Alabama”
last night & slew the judge who rode
his horse Sassy to the poll, & dammit
I feel like laughing up a fury,
eating a bowl of blackberries.

Poem copyright 2018 by Yusef Komunyakaa. All rights reserved.

&
See more poems from Yusef Komunyakaa debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle: The Mountain


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

The Mountain

In the hard, unwavering mountain
light, black flags huddle at the foot of the mountain.

Hours are days & nights, a ragged map
of hungry faces trapped on the mountain.

But silence swears help is on its way,
formations rolling toward the mountain.

Blood of the sacred yew & stud goat
beg repose midpoint of the mountain

& prayers rise in August’s predawn gruff.
Artillery halts at the foot of the mountain.

Help is on its way, but don’t question
the music burning toward the mountain.

Infidels size up their easy targets, flying
skull & bone as villainy scales the mountain.

It could be a beautiful day but black flags
throng around the base of the mountain.

The red-wing kite has come to pinpoint
a medieval hour, circling the mountain.

Men & women change into garments of rebirth
lost in the double shadow of the mountain,

& a ghost of gunmetal drones overhead
& slowly turns, translating the mountain,

then stops midair, before drumming down
the black flags at the foot of the mountain.

 

 

Poem copyright 2018 by Yusef Komunyakaa. All rights reserved.

&
See more poems from Yusef Komunyakaa debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle:
The Last Bohemian of Avenue A (Excerpt)


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

by Patricia Smith

6.Fiddle6

Blue lash had taught my back the wound. You see,
however, what becomes of one who heals.
A man must learn to skillfully conceal,
and then command, his scars. I disagree
with those who say the night mines deep, that we
are shattered still by yesterday’s ordeal.
When trickster gods commanded me to “Kneel!”
they never heard me hiss the pedigree
that’s brought me to this day—this straightened back,
this silken tie, this collar pressed, these eyes
refusing to relent or guarantee
the lens a pliant soul. Perhaps I lack
a name that’s truly mine, not bastardized.
But reverie is salve. I named me free.

 

 

 

Poem copyright 2017 by Patricia Smith. Photograph courtesy Smith-DeSilva collection.
All rights reserved.

&
See more poems from this series debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle: What Breath Gives Back #3, #8, #19


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

by Patricia Smith

Fiddle1919.

Behind the flash, he seems somewhat possessed
by what my stare can do. He’s not exactly sure
if I’m a child—a gangly immature
rapscallion in a disarming dress—
or if my luminescent gaze suggests
perfumed acknowledgment. I can endure
his ill-considered hope, because the cure
is history. My murdered mother rests
in me, aflame and flailing still, her grand
and muscled body hitched to labor. Saint
Domingue’s copper slap still simmers, sears
her thirsty skin, then mine—bodacious and
bedamned, she thrashes through me. Her restraint
is why I smolder. Murderous. Austere.

 

 

 

Poem copyright 2017 by Patricia Smith. Photograph courtesy Smith-DeSilva collection.
All rights reserved.

&
See more poems from this series debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle: What Breath Gives Back #3, #6, #8


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

by Patricia Smith

Fiddle33.

Through landscape soaked in glow, so biblically
aloud he knew the Lord had stomped it sweet—
my father Harry fled the heinous heat
of Carolina’s whip and spittle—he
was sure his rabid master Moore would be
a lash behind, commanding curs to seek
his vassal’s surging blood. Anguished and weak,
Pa coiled inside the hollow of a tree.
For seven months, the poplar was his home.
He prayed, slew snakes, ate of the wild—today
no one believes he lived to win that fight.
I’m Moses Grimes, his son, wedded and grown.
A poplar on my land still marks the day
my father hurtled forth, dazed by the light.

 

 

 

Poem copyright 2017 by Patricia Smith. Photograph courtesy Smith-DeSilva collection.
All rights reserved.

&
See more poems from this series debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle: What Breath Gives Back #8, #6, #19.


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

by Patricia Smith

Fiddle88.

We plunge into a vow of stuttered light,
the two of us—stand still they coo at him
but hiss toward me. I blink and gnash a hymn
behind my teeth. Emanuel’s polite,
but frightened—I am frightened, but polite.
The eye has sipped our sheltered truths, the grim
fidelity we hide. He’ll whisper Jim?
when this is done—he knows I’ll answer right

away, while blindly reaching for his hand.
We’ll mumble of the stiff and numbing moan
in both our backs. We’re weary, but aware—
our faces scorched to tin means no one can
deny his ownership of me. Go home,
they say. I wait. The boy will tell me where.

 

 

 

Poem copyright 2017 by Patricia Smith. Photograph courtesy Smith-DeSilva collection.
All rights reserved.

&
See more poems from this series debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle: What Breath Gives Back #3, #6, #19


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

by Danez Smith

i love those two g’s in the middle
hanging down like hands scooping
water from a river pink with dusk. i love
how it starts in the nose (ni-) then
runs to the back of the mouth
& kicks the soft palate drum (-ggas)
i love how it mean. & how it mean
that which is me & that which is
them over there & it make me
smile to think about all us
just black slices of the same black
bloodloaf. it do my heart well to think
on niggas, do my spirit good to
say NIGGAS! when i walk into
a room & be greeted with
warm dark that be the city
in the good arms of homies, little
bridges that clasped black hands
make, or how my nigga Josh place
his head against my head, how we
almost wear each other as crowns
ain’t that it? niggas make me royal
not like king queen, but like we
the court, like we all a diaspora
of knights at the table of our blood
with no king but our blood
like we the whole dang castle itself
& my skin brick & moat & arrows
pointed at the distance ready
to protect the two g’s of my body
& the g’s that made me
& the g’s they came from

 

Copyright 2017 by Danez Smith. All rights reserved.

&
See two more poems by Smith debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle: “fat one, with the switch” and “For the Dead Homie.”


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