Jean-Michel Basquiat, ‘Cassius Clay’, (Gagosian Gallery) 1982.
The Mare of Money
By Roger Reeves
Another dead mare waits
in the shoals of some body
of water, waits to be burden,
borne into a foaming ocean,
where it might become food
for whales, or, simply empty
signifier—hair latched to the sea’s undulation
like Absalom’s beauty
caught in the playful branches
of a tree desiring union,
entanglement, thick confusion—
but not this mare;
she does not get the luxury
of a lyric—a song that makes our own undoing
or killing sweet even as we go down
into the fire to rise as smoke.
This horse must lie, eyes open,
amongst the stones and fresh water
crawfish in Money, Mississippi,
listen to the men’s boots break the water
as they drop a black boy’s body near her head,
pick him up, only to let him fall again
there: bent and eye-to-eye with her
as though decaying is something
that requires a witness
—as though the mare might say:
on Tuesday after the rain fell,
the boy’s neck finally snapped
from the weight of the mill fan;
he never looked at me again.
Or the boy might say:
No more. They part
here—the boy’s body found
in another man’s arms, carried back
to town, as the horse says nothing
because horses don’t speak, besides
this one’s dead.
Trayvon Martin (1995 – 2012) [undated screen capture]
Roger Reeves‘s poems have appeared in journals such as Poetry, Ploughshares, American Poetry Review, Boston Review, and Tin House, among others. He was awarded a 2013 NEA Fellowship, Ruth Lilly Fellowship by the Poetry Foundation in 2008, two Bread Loaf Scholarships, an Alberta H. Walker Scholarship from the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, and two Cave Canem Fellowships. He earned his PhD at the University of Texas-Austin and is currently an assistant professor of poetry at the University of Illinois, Chicago. “The Mare of Money” appears in his first book King Me (Copper Canyon Press, 2013).
David Wojnarowicz, from Arthur Rimbaud in New York, 1978-79 (LLC/PPP Editions, 2004)
By Arthur Rimbaud, trans. John Ashbery
He is affection and the present since he opened the house to foaming winter and the hum of summer, he who purified drink and food, he who is the charm of fleeting places and the superhuman deliciousness of staying still. He is affection and the future, strength and love that we, standing amid rage and troubles, see passing in the storm-rent sky and on banners of ecstasy.
He is love, perfect and reinvented measurement, wonderful and unforeseen reason, and eternity: machine beloved for its fatal qualities. We have all experienced the terror of his yielding and of our own: O enjoyment of our health, surge of our faculties, egoistic affection and passion for him, he who loves us for his infinite life
And we remember him and he travels. . . And if the Adoration goes away, resounds, its promise resounds: “Away with those superstitions, those old bodies, those couples and those ages. It’s this age that has sunk!”
He won’t go away, nor descend from a heaven again, he won’t accomplish the redemption of women’s anger and the gaiety of men and of all that sin: for it is now accomplished, with him being, and being loved.
O his breaths, his heads, his racing; the terrible swiftness of the perfection of forms and of action.
O fecundity of the spirit and immensity of the universe!
His body! The dreamed-of release, the shattering of grace crossed with new violence!
The sight, the sight of him! all the ancient kneeling and suffering lifted in his wake.
His day! the abolition of all resonant and surging suffering in more intense music.
His footstep! migrations more vast than ancient invasions.
O him and us! pride more benevolent than wasted charities.
O world! and the clear song of new misfortunes!
He has known us all and loved us all. Let us, on this winter night, from cape to cape, from the tumultuous pole to the castle, from the crowd to the beach, from glance to glance, our strengths and feelings numb, learn to hail him and see him, and send him back, and under the tides and at the summit of snowy deserts, follow his seeing, his breathing, his body, his day.
From Illuminations, John Ashbery, New York: W.W. Norton, 2012
Ray Atkeson, from Northwest Heritage: The Cascade Range, 1969
by William Stafford
Today outside your prison I stand
and rattle my walking stick: Prisoners, listen;
you have relatives outside. And there are
thousands of ways to escape.
Years ago I bent my skill to keep my
cell locked, had chains smuggled to me in pies,
and shouted my plans to jailers;
but always new plans occurred to me,
or the new heavy locks bent hinges off,
or some stupid jailer would forget
and leave the keys.
Inside, I dreamed of constellations—
those feeding creatures outlined by stars,
their skeletons a darkness between jewels,
heroes that exist only where they are not.
Thus freedom always came nibbling my thought,
just as—often, in light, on the open hills—
you can pass an antelope and not know
and look back, and then—even before you see—
there is something wrong about the grass.
And then you see.
That’s the way everything in the world is waiting.
Now—these few more words, and then I’m
gone: Tell everyone just to remember
their names, and remind others, later, when we
find each other. Tell the little ones
to cry and then go to sleep, curled up
where they can. And if any of us get lost,
if any of us cannot come all the way—
remember: there will come a time when
all we have said and all we have hoped
will be all right.
There will be that form in the grass.