Always there if I reach for relief, thick in the bottle’s neck like drawl―
fibrous little trauma fruit, wan little wound-licker.


Body droughted to the point of dysfunction, my migrained mind
tilts toward translucence, splitting every thought into image and
afterimage as I freedom ride remix backseat, Oxford-bound with
brave new voices for our time, and yet it’s these downy white balls
of narrative thread that most separate me from customary comfort,
slick Southern taunts aimed at this grandson of Mississippi born,
of all unforgivables, black and Yankee and free


by the letter of the law.
It hurts to consider how much hurt
it took to provide its abundance here, still, hugging to the highway
for miles and miles and miles into the past or the future, whichever
way the head of the moving car is pointed, north or south, arbitrary.
My, how strange it feels touching what homegoing is while your heart
still pumps blood as a pump jack flows oil from earth, pushes another
kind of gold through you, a deep glory, a shine that was suffered for,
the familial histories that make you suffocated by distance, distance
meaning time, meaning space, meaning, maybe,


deliberate decision.
You know, I really wonder where Granny got
her hands from, so genius in the soil―how she makes a lush garden
grow on a small South Side plot every spring is a soothing secret:
ghosts are real. She may be one of them, as I might be, a blurry life
seen through hers, hence my soul’s singing in cool flame as I stand
on this ground where my bones, or what shapes me, must already be
buried between the roots of clouds.






Photograph © The Kheel Center / Louise Boyle, Southern Tenant Farmers Union Photographs, 1937

Two Poems
The Nine Circles