Poems my southern Cave Canem fellows. Published for the 2014 Virtual Rent Party fundraiser.
Copyright 2014 Cave Canem Foundation, Inc.
This chapbook was created as part of the Cave Canem Virtual Rent PartySOUTH fundraiser to support the Cave Canem Foundation, Inc. All digital and print copies distributed are solely for that purpose. All poems included are published with the authors permission.
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www.cavecanempoets.orgCave Canem SouthPoems by Southern Cave Canem Fellows
Stephanie Pruitt 5
Remica L. Bingham 6
Jonathan Moody 7
L. Lamar Wilson 9
Kwoya Fagin 10shirlette ammons 11Amanda Johnston 13
M. Ayodele Heath 14Cedric Tillman 16
Bianca Spriggs 18 Bonus Track 19 Stephanie Pruitt-Gains
slaves, she answered, as I sink
my fingers beneath the roots.
the knees of that blue housedress are threadbare.
she wears it on Tuesdays and Fridays when we tend the flowers.
pullin weeds aint a time for talk she chides.
I watch her uproot the creeping Charlie.
the fragrant blossoms we protect, hug our whole house.
sweet peas were my choice.
we rarely buy those things for sale in the gardening aisle.
dont make sense to work the earth and not feel it.
I wanted those thick cotton gloves, but they stayed on the shelf.
you gotta learn the difference between dirt and soil.
sometimes I notice how the ground changes.
denser, darker, moister a little more red in some places
in social studies class I learned about crop rotation
and how it keeps the land fertile.
Mama, what did they used to grow here?
Remica L. Bingham
My mother is unatainable
and I have come to accept this.
So when the doctor tells me
my legs spread wide, the tiny head
of a probe invading my cervix
There may be a problem
I am relieved, almost happy for the damage.
I say Adoption is nice randomly, to my mother,
driving through a flea market one day. Then
My students are all I need on another.
She watches me linger with children, then swiftly
hand them back, but never says what she intuits.
In the years to come I will say it outright:
I cant be you, meaning, not even one,
not even one perfect one.
DOOMY PONTIFICATES ON THE MEANING
BEHIND A KISS, THE WHISPER IN THE BRAIN
A kiss on the forearm
asks, How was your day?
A kiss on the elbow
twirls you around
in your black & white
A kiss on the chin
pops off white
wine bottle corks.
A kiss on the ear
makes you strut in suede
The first kiss on the neck
kicks out my roommate;
the second one slides
your dress down
to your festive feet.
A kiss on the shoulder
A kiss on the stomach
puts my television
on mute. A kiss
on the eyelids
means youll see
me in your dreams.
in your brain trains
you to never mention
my name out loud
talking in your sleep.
L. Lamar Wilson
I Cant Help It
I talk too much. I cannot tell a liar
from a preacher, so I tell you
what you want: Im saved & sick
of this world, safe in Gods arms. God,
give me this world in an honest mans
arms. An ego is hard to stroke. Or easy if
you know how to quiet it, let a man feel
his burn in your throat. I talk too much.
Im sorry Im not sorry enough. Ill dance
all over you. O liar. Preacher. Daddy-
o, your tongue lashing is never hard
or fast enough. When you lie still,
stroking your chalice, the quiet makes me
retch. I am a lone dandelion in a field,
waiting. Come. Blow me to bits. Still.
Youll die this way, saved by the lies
that burn like the ice water & alcohol
Mama sits me in to break the fevers
our silences brought. Ill die thrashing,
telling any body all my secrets.
Kwoya FaginThe Alabama Jazz Quartet Celebrates Black History Month
One black man
But why live by the river,
Why live so close to doorways,
with no escape?
the finger, calms
The cake of percussion builds
to the cherry on top.
Pride enters the room
in a white suit.
The black man gets his solo.
His fingers slide in
and out of the notes.
He knows exactly
when to come and when to go.
History Makes Concessions for White Boys
from all my white sins forgiven, they feed
- Philip Levine, They Feed They Lion
At the Food Lion,
This cute one hangs and guts
The pot-bellied pork;
I suppose his kisses salt and slime,
Which would have appeased the high school me,
Ham gelatin swathing my tongue
As I lip-synced good vibrations
Like mark wahlberg wasnt just
A white boy in dropped boxers
Protesting the mullet
I remember his face now,
He and his girlfriend mashed like Juicy Fruit
In that big-ass, Dixie-flagged, Ford F-150,
Me, a member of the yellow school-bus clique,
Sitting, suffocating, three deep in a pleathered seat;
Mexican, black, po white trash, cousins of cousins
Muddled like the fuzz between pecan trees
And AM radio stations;
Her hands, gold nugget promise rings,
Engaged his stringy hair;
As his dual mufflers fumed down Highway 403,
Racial divide scoured the windshields
Of our wheeled, county property
He steps outside between slaughterings
To smoke a red-boxed Marlboro.
I notice his bangs have grown out;
He stares as if my locks carry remnants
Of barrettes and blurred bus numbers;
We nod and smile, an understood country greeting;
I figure he and his girlfriend still coast cramped,
The same way public transportation taught us
To Squeeze tight in our assigned seats
In case the white boys pickup broke down
Why else would we make room for a passenger
Who never needed a ride?
a chair is not a house and a house is not a homewhen there's no one there to hold you tight. Luther Vandross
Tucked under an overpass a bedroom
with no walls. An Oriental rug divides highway soot and city
muck from what is claimed as home. In the center of the rug
a queen size bed with fitted sheets and a turned down comforter
revealing two dusty white pillows. Heads rest there
under thousands of pounds of concrete and steel trusting
that the weight of the world will not come crashing down.
Is love made there in that bed? Do the world's voyeurs
discover over and over the exposed room
its contents and nothingness on display:
yes, it is this simple. This too is a life worth sharing.
I consider my home; cookie cutter stability in a shaky market.
How would my life fit under a bridge? Would there be room
for the fridge, the racks of shoes, my second living room set?
Is the plasma TV enough? Its blank face reflecting our empty
arms and wayward dreams. Would he remember the lines?
For better, for worse For richer, for poorer
Would that sealing kiss of vows hold our binding?
M. Ayodele Heath
Etymology of Aint
used to be ant which comes from
am not as in
I aint you but also is not as in
He aint me& also have not as in I aint been
and dont wanna beAint is a state of that which is not
Aint is a state in the American South
Aint country, aint hip-hop
Aint nappy, aint cornrows, aint dreadlocks
Aint ignores dress codesno shoes, no socks
Aint wears no drawersdont own any
Aint aint never apologized for being
Aint never been apologetic
Some say aint no future in aint
& aint aint what it used to be
but where aint is, is aint
Aint aint metaphysical?
Is you is or is you aint? I aint no haint
Aint never been 3/5
Aint trying to be no more than I am
I is whole
Before I was born
I was allThey dug aints gravebetween tis and twasBut aint stands defiantly as dont and wontTar & feather me
burn me down
I aint supposed to be here
But I is
Rev. Henry, 1980Matthew 10:32-39By way of apology,he hada double helping ofGrandmascollard greens.Hed only eatlegs.He held a drumstick so light on his fingersyou could offer himyour Sunday shirtas a napkinand wear it to workthe next day.His grey crown, neatly picked outand brighter than Gloryhalf hid a pictureof my granddaddy,frowning and heavy-handedin his overalls,long deadfrom the gravel pits dust;In the den he crossed his legsleft over right,nodded at times,held back the kneewithknitted fingerswhile his wifespoke of Sunday School,the Buds of Pr