1. Mississippi Zephyr
A stag bolts into stillness.
His legs humming in the memory
of flight; antler points long
enough to reach stratospheres.
Furious rain tongues his coat.
He snorts and sloshes velocity.
How did this creature arrive
in this city - marching on Yazoo Clay
like Sherman – brown hoofs
slugging mud? I have been waiting
all along for him to prick at
my garden like a ghost
who ravages the daisies.
A city deer, now. His bewilderment
metastasizing in growing fits
like a chocking man gasping for breath.
I lean against the porch rail
of my duplex to regain my strength
from the sickness of his estrangement.
Rain mellows into soft flame-like licks,
flat clouds look waterless.
There’s a zephyr closing in
on the city. We hear its cringing
engine fans. My ghost has come home.
Houses vacant for years;
3. Farish Street Exit
thrallings among bullet casings
and empty beer tins.
Debris electrifies us in the foundries
and print-shops. Gutted homes
blood stained and ready. On Sunday,
our neighbors bring meals-
children pull on the flapping
skirts of mothers. Palm leaf
clouds become rib cages
against a full winter moon,
its gold - translucently humid.
Angel Trumpets seduce us to twist.
If there was ever a canvas big enough
to please resentment, it bows
tonight as a white dwarf.
Skylights dazzle our skin
and I yawn like the big leaf
just about to curl from frost.
I’m disembarking the New Orleans
to Jackson Amtrak. A baby boy
on mother’s lap who tugs
her scooping neckline bounces up
and down and she spoons
mouthfuls of Gerber’s thunderously
into his soft pink mouth.
Pews in the station for us to wait.
A balding man with a younger man –
new lovers in a time of crisis.
Sky, Mississippi, sky: a laughing heart,
husky winds. Our curly mouthed
accents prolong a fear of water
contamination. Our city pipes thrum
in cold weather. Once broken,
they absorb the Yazoo Clay –
sentiments of soft earth –
and our water darkens. Home, I drink it,
and my body cranks-up like a forest fire – at once
a clinching organ and shadow.
Urban Voices: 51 Poems from 51 American Poets. San Francisco Bay Press. 2014
“Mississippi Zephyr.” North American Review, 2014.