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

by Anastacia-Reneé

you want to tell all your people the mother ship is swooping
that she landed on top of a red mountain of vegan gravy
that she is dripping in beggary saying sop me up sop me up
you want to drag them by their anxious hands & say ya’ll
our time has come. look up yonder. & you want yonder to be
a 60 degree place of no wanting — as if the yonder knows
<                   what you need                    >
& what you need is a land with no white cops dangling
pavlov fingers or pow-powing guns as synonym for
the truth the light & the way to kill a nigga
want to tell your people to gallop to the mother ship
like giraffes or gazelles or goliath — goodtimes, we
finally got a piece of the pie eye     eye     eye     eyeeee
                         run ____________ run.

 

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

&amp;
See more poems from Anastacia-Reneé debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle: Conversation with Baldwin and on being free


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

by Anastacia-Reneé

the eagle flies by
& you wonder
what it might
feel like
to be so free
so american
so present
how it can
dive right down
right in
right by
(pain)
as if
it were
a regular sky

 

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

&amp;
See two more poems from Anastacia-Reneé debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle:
Conversation with Baldwin and The Mother Ship is Purple


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

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.

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


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