I flashed tunes, grinning like a new hubcap.
My whistling camouflaged a kiss, riding
a struggle-buggy up from Huntsville
bound for the Southside rain that came and wet
puddle basins, made the flagstone finish jet.
Spunk is the surest horse this season, said she.
And Washington bought his teeth from slaves.
He taught us: smile and the world smiles with you.
Fog banded the marsh beside
her window. Shaved
ice, pekoe tea. Enameled
finger softened by the crystal, she
could almost hear me sigh.
Could almost see my song still eddy,
voiceless, counter to the silken tide,
the river breaking silence, woken,
pages on the water where I died.
along Seventh, fit
to the gills
bone, a mother-
the fob pocket like
a Van Der Zee
Ever young with feet facing
west I face east.
My gift to husbands, horns
while vespers bud like cotton
between their lovers’
painted toes. She had
helped me wrap the gift. I
knotted her finger in the bow.
Totem first appeared in Callaloo Fall 2004, 27:4.
Poem, copyright © 2004 by Gregory Pardlo
Appearing on From the Fishouse with permission
Audio file, copyright © 2005, From the Fishouse