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Two poems by Phillip Shabazz

Beyond Gravity

When stars fly as planned, I am not the bluest flame

driven into the gutter glass of August. I stomach

the bruised side of a capsized moon in this night camp.

Your sea air salts my eye watching a moonchild

half adrift in the sewer grilled street. For I would rather rest

his head on my shoulder, as if dreaming, and akin to my father,

than strain the gut to hold the hellhole weight of his ruin

by a stranger willing to settle for the gun and cross a line.

Beyond gravity, I say our history collapses into hunger: Icarus’s

counterpart and shout heard from the cars. No wonder words

rise from the written signs with painted symbols of this march.

How marvelous to be musical instead of plywood boarded

on doors, on windows against the bricks, batons, rocks,

and bear the florescence dense in the eyes of a stray dog.

Like a phantom, I ramble straightaway into a pause shadowed

between stalled traffic. Your breath climbs the brute, my back,

picks up the wind’s burn, snatch, and snap at a lonely lip.

What to do? Whose job is this? To doubt you, I am pointless.

In the magic of another city I wouldn’t think of taking a nosedive

to speed up my pulse to breathe. Here, the same threshold.

Here, the same mile too long, an army of firearms pointing

at the profile, a burden on my back: This Is A Peaceful Protest.

Here, the roadblock and heat holds our seamless wishes

filling the nocturnal noise. Faint fog wanders up the wall of police

on standby, and my tangled pores purple from traffic groans.

In such airborne gas, who could stave off the sting on our tongues,

or the wet smoke, a chemtrail swept into our mouths?

Some of us flop from fatigue. Others put up a façade to lift

the signs mounted in pale dust. Some of us jump to join bridges

onto our bridges to balance ourselves, by all odds, deeper

in your causeway than ever, ignited by your rage. Disquiet, hear

the bullhorn voices ignore the sacred cow stripped of its skin.

Grease, dark grime stains flesh, throb loss, a white sheet

covers another body. It’s always this history bleeding out.

The grass must ache. Looks more ache than ever. To keep

our covenant, I step away from cries that stab the ear.

As always, the glim insight. In silence, you are a night camp.

In silence, you are a flowerbed bustling patches and pockets

of opalescence, a woman’s greenway. Your bare glow

deposes darkness. In silence, you share your breasts

of mint at my touch. I cannot find room except here, splintered

and gathered in lavender and rose. I cannot fathom the clouds

spilling birds, nor the tree accused of fruit. What is there to say

when I hear you in the trash beg for bread? Or is it my voice

heard against the hiss of hanging wire whipped into the sky?

If nothing else, I am the stray dog looking for answers

in that scrap soiling the garbage bags, that scrap, an Armageddon

at the street corner. Groans fly in and out of windows like

eagles dislike the traffic. Tire skid. Blot sucked into itself.

Cataclysm bloats the ankles. Paper effigies give vent

to prolonged suffering, never a shield of shelter. Still I cross

the street like one makes the sign of the cross on the head

and chest to enter a church. What is the word for hanging

someone on a cross? hammers me blow by blow—crucifixion.

Seneca calls it infelix lignum, dedicated to idols

of the nether world, or the cross around the neck of some

among us. My shoes tighten. Scrape the tarmac that I walk

as if on a river headed to the farthest place in the sea.

Walk the water. See within its mirror the moonchild

who cannot crawl fast enough from under the heel

of a boot before I watch another death on the cross, near

and far from the sea. There is no sea, only the turning point

at a new peak of flame that evolves the dead. The swollen

gutter wind is an undertaker grounding me in your garden.

Glass on glass cuts light across a face,

the child I lost, head in my hands, a moon.

Moonflower Daze

I’m not one to rejoice in the rain.

On edge, night in my eyes, the growls

of bugs and motorcycles speed across the moon,

jive in the sky like stars jive in the dust.

Backfire. But the growl hardened hurricane

arrives stomping wind into my mouth.

And I absorb the stare of lions. The growls

in their eyes like bugs jive in the moon dust.

They burn the night the way they zoom

from the rain and hurricane down into the underground.

I see their stare—the lions, a stare against the bugs,

against the motorcycles in the dust

as the clouds jive in the rain,

jive in the stars falling into my eyes,

jive in the lost moon, the stare of lions,

a stare against the hurricane. In the night,

I watch the stars draw together like bugs,

and jive in the dust. I watch the rain arrive,

the hurricane stomping through the moon growl.

I do not rejoice. I absorb the stare of lions.

Phillip Shabazz is the author of three poetry collections, and a novel in verse. His poetry has been included in the anthologies, Literary Trails of the North Carolina Piedmont: A Guidebook, and Home Is Where: African-American Poetry from the Carolinas. Some previous publication credits in journals include, Fine Lines, Galway Review, Hamilton Stone Review, Hamline Lit, Impossible Task, ImpSpired, K'in, Mason Street Journal, New Critique, On The Seawall, and the Sky Island Journal.

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