I have a great fear for the moral will of Americans if it takes more than a week to achieve results.Michael S. Harper
By Michael S. Harper
We reconstruct lives in the intensive
care unit, pieced together in a buffet
dinner: two widows with cancerous breasts
in their balled hands; a 30-year-old man
in a three-month coma
from a Buick and a brick wall;
a woman who bleeds off and on from her gullet;
a prominent socialite, our own nurse,
shrieking for twins, “her bump gone”;
the gallery of veterans, succored,
awake, without valves, some lungs gone.
Splicing the meats with fluids
seasoned on the dressing room
table, she sings “the bump gone”
refrain in this 69-degree oven,
unstuffing her twin yolks
carved from the breast, the dark meat
wrapped in tinfoil and clean newspaper;
the half black registered nurse
hums her six years in an orphanage,
her adopted white family,
breaded and primed in a posse,
rising in clan for their dinner.
We reload our brains as the cameras,
the film overexposed
in the x-ray light,
locked with our double door
light meters: race and sex
spooled and rungs in a hobby;
we take our bundle and go home.
By Yusef Komunyakaa
Drunken laughter escapes
Behind the fence woven
With honeysuckle, up to where
I stand. Daddy’s running-buddy,
Carson, is beside him. In the time
It takes to turn & watch a woman
Tiptoe & pull a sheer blouse off
The clothesline, to see her sun-lit
Dress ride up peasant legs
Like the last image of mercy, three
Are drinking from the Mason jar.
That’s the oak we planted
The day before I left town,
As if father & son
Needed staking down to earth.
If anything could now plumb
Distance, that tree comes close,
Recounting lost friends
As they turn into mist.
The woman stands in a kitchen
Folding a man’s trousers—
Her chin tucked to hold
The cuffs straight.
I’m lonely as those storytellers
In my father’s backyard
I shall join soon. Alone
As they are, tilting back heads
To let the burning ease down.
The names of women melt
In their mouths like hot mints,
As if we didn’t know Old Man Pagget’s
Stoopdown is doctored with
Slivers of Red Devil Lye.