Prose online

On "Learning to Read" by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper: my Poetry Month Pick at Poetry Daily.

Patterning: my brief poetics statement that's part of H.L. Hix's Progressive Poetics project. 

What Spills Over & What Urges the Spill: Some Whys and Wherefores of Dangerous Goods: my poetics essay at The Volta.

They Drove: my short-short story at the New England Review Digital.

Daylight Breaks Again Suddenly Upon the Darkness: Revelations in the Library: my statement of poetic research at Common-place: The Journal of the American Antiquarian Society. 

we live to Learn ♥ how to Love: my short-short story at The Owls.

Jail Yard: my photograph and brief lyric essay at The Owls.

 

Interviews online

An interview featured on the website of The Arkansas International.

Dangerous Goods Reading Guide from the website of The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, organizers of the Minnesota Book Awards.  

Poetry Spotlight on Dangerous Goods at Memorious Blog.

How "Uncle John" Happened at How a Poem Happens, an online anthology of interviews curated by Brian Brodeur.  

Small Press Spotlight on Blood Ties & Brown Liquor at Critical Mass, the blog of the National Book Critics Circle Board of Directors. 

 


 

Poems from Blood Ties & Brown Liquor

Silas Wright at Age Seven 1914

Silas Wright follows a fish’s wriggle
In the shallows between reeds. He scribes the
Line in his tablet—as much pride in that line
As a man in his son. He almost giggles—
Still he goes on. The next letters come easy.
With this he’ll have more than a mark to bind.
Rambling across the page again and again
In messy rows on it flows until he
Goes a little off the page’s edge. He smiles.
He’s surprised to hear when his mouth opens—
That’s mine.

 

First appeared in WarpLand: A Journal of Black Literature and Ideas.

 

Insurance Man 1946

Silas, you might not be here come April.
Ain’t none of us ever promised tomorrow.
If you died right sudden, you’d need a will.

That way you control who gets your nickel
when you gone. Get your ducks in a row,
Silas. You might not be here come April.

Yeah, your policy’s up-to-date and we’ll
pay, say, if you lose an arm at the elbow
at the mill, but if you die, you’ll need a will.

Double pay for accidental deaths? We still
have you down, your wife won’t need to borrow.
Silas, you might not be here come April.

Being alive is enough to get you killed.
Did you hear about them folks up in Monroe?
If they hang you from a tree, you’ll need a will.

Your folks won’t have to worry about a meal
with this insurance when that day of sorrow
comes. Silas, you might not be here come April.
If you died right sudden, you’d need a will.

 

First appeared in Painted Bride Quarterly.

 

Joe Chappel’s Foot Log Bottom Blues 1952

I left that bottle 
at the Blue Moon.
Emptied the bottle 
at the Blue Moon.
And I’m gon see 
my woman soon.

She lives in a shack with 
a chicken yard and coop.
Got to be quiet—don’t wake 
them hens sleep in the coop.
To get in that shack gon have to 
bow, scrape and stoop.
Oh, I say I’m gon have 
to bow, scrape and stoop.

I need a taste more—gon stop 
by Bobby’s for a sip.
Needed a taste more so 
stopped by Bobby’s for a sip.
Now, Lord, it’s done come up 
a cloud mighty quick.

Clouds done moved in quick 
and filled up this room.
Clouds done come and covered up 
the stars and moon;
I expect, it’s gon come down 
a rain awful soon.

Got to cross Ten Yard Branch 
to the other side.
Got to cross the branch 
to the Choiceville side.
I just tripped over a root 
and damn near died.

Here I am stumbling—
drunk off some liquor.
I say, I’m stumbling drunk 
from stump liquor.
Going to see my woman—
Lord, all we do is bicker.

My troubles fill a pail faster 
than this rain coming down.
Said, troubles overflow faster 
than rain coming down.
Lord, lightning shined them raindrops 
like gems in your crown.
Lord, she a good and beautiful woman 
like a jewel in your crown.

These foot logs getting slapped 
and kissed by the rising branch.
I said, foot logs kissed 
and slapped by the rising branch.
Lord, hope I can get across 
and she lift that latch.

 

First appeared in Blues Poems.

 

Milledgeville Haibun

Beat. Beat. Beats beat here. The sound of the train on the Georgia road, the measured claps of the wheels at the gaps of the joints of the rails is the beat of the hammer on iron and anvil at the smithy, Sol’s shop, shaping shoes for mules and horses; and the sizzle of red metal in water is the train’s whistle, and all echoes resound and effuse, and the last word returns like watermelons here with summer heat, beat with a hammer, beat when he, a boy, broke into the garden at the county jail at night when the beat men were asleep because theirs were the sweetest, so bust one open, the dull thud just before the crack, and eat the heart and move on to the next; and he moved on to women and settled eventually on one and finally busted her with finality, thud before crack, and he measured time raising the sweetest watermelons for a time and time served he returned, a man, and he lay on the tracks of the Georgia road cradled by the rails. Heart stopped.

 

Old railroad, abandoned—
between crossties trees grow,
a feral pig roots below branches.

 

First appeared in The Ringing Ear.

 

Poems from Blood Ties & Brown Liquor Online

The Morning with Many Tongues: text and video of me reading four poems from Blood Ties & Brown Liquor published on Southern Spaces.

Elegy for an Older Brother 1922

Uncle John