Two poems by Phillip Shabazz
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.
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.