Cave Canem South Digital Chapbook

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Poems my southern Cave Canem fellows. Published for the 2014 Virtual Rent Party fundraiser.

Text of Cave Canem South Digital Chapbook

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.

Cave Canem Foundation, Inc.20 Jay StreetSuite 310-ABrooklyn, NY 11201Telephone: 718.858.0000Fax: 718.858.0002

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

Mississippi Gardens

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.

Jonathan Moody



A kiss on the forearm

asks, How was your day?

A kiss on the elbow

twirls you around

in your black & white

asymmetrical dress.

A kiss on the chin

pops off white

wine bottle corks.

A kiss on the ear

makes you strut in suede

knee-high boots.

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

screens Tommys

incoming calls.

A kiss on the stomach

puts my television

on mute. A kiss

on the eyelids

means youll see

me in your dreams.

The whisper

in your brain trains

you to never mention

my name out loud

while youre

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,

the train?

Why live so close to doorways,

with no escape?

Crescendo curves

the finger, calms

the horn.

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.

shirlette ammons

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?

Amanda Johnston


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

of nothing

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

Cedric Tillman

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