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  • Poesía
  • Niki Herd (bio)

And on the Front Page

and on the front pageof the newspaper, the corpses

of twelve Mexicans lie insideboxes, each packed generic

in cardboard, like an appliancewaiting to be delivered

brand new—and what of somewoman, any woman

with skin the color of dirtwho ain't never had nothing.

She stands by a door and is greetedby a box, the lines on her face

deep like those back roads heading northwhere a man who could be her son

rests on a border patrol stretcherthe balm of vomit and spit on lips

a catheter stuck inside his dick.He is young and fine, but the sun

is not a friend, it reminds himof his place as it shines

on his black hair, and the arrowthrough the heart painted on his arm. [End Page 187]


for Abdur-Rahim Jackson

There's that certain way you have of talkingthat has always kept a spell over me.

Snap—snap your fingers and I am walkinglike a dog, thirsty, tethered to your lead.

The song says you make me feel like dancingand I'm going to dance the night away

in this here airport, I will pave a waythrough like those that came before me talking

yes sirs, yes mams, big eyes and lips dancinginside white pantries. Ain't got to tell me

shuffling me, more than once to take your leadwhile my dark cowrie shell skin tries walking

straight into the promise land where sidewalksteethe and bleed, lines drawn in sand shift away

to percussive beats made by bombs of lead.And the world keeps shouting: peace talks, peace talks.

The good book, Koran, somebody's god, mygod, lovely mists of white phosphorus dance

over the spectacle of a dancertrying to prove he's no terrorist walk

man—wasn't it Hughes that said life for mecertainly ain't been no crystal stairway?

Or is an arched black back the gods talkinga poised foot prayer, a reverence led

by the same day old song, like the leadingsay—dragging of a man, that hard dancing

in Jasper, Texas, what didactic talk [End Page 188] between the body and the road he walked

between the neck severing itself awayfrom the head—coming forth to carry me

sings byrd while security studies mein the circle of spotlight, a leading

role as an audience steers eyes my wayto the staging of a black man dancing

in an airport, and bodies walk and walksomewhere, and like dice, brothers shoot talk

somewhere away in cities far from methey talk about how their boy childs will lead

and dance on the unforgivable walk. [End Page 189]

war poem #1

and after the bombson halloween

they are childrenpure children

not touched by the waysof grown folk

they will walk door to dooreat candy and giggle

as if strange musicgives voice to the dead [End Page 190]

an excerpt from Praise House


                Become a bride            in a place                    that looks like thisthe hardness of wedding stone                hovering                                & guarding                        symphony & stream.    There is beauty in this:            how we learn by repetition        how we die by repetition.                    In the high schoolyear book, there was once                        a girl                            a girl with lips [End Page 191]                                     extended upward    to the moon & scribbled                            names                                written in hollowcursive letters said things like            most likely to succeed, or                                    stay young                & sweet        then there were                        the numbers: [End Page 192] 24:     age at time of death 5: number of bullets8: months pregnant     99: the year the prince said        we were all going to die [End Page 193]                 Old folks sayyou can tell much                    about a man    by the way he kills                            let the choir sing        all their namessing glory                        glory                            hallelujah. [End Page 194]


            Sitting beneath                the sun this                            accordion                                    of fire        counting the days                eyes saw &        could not see &                    counting the passing                            of time backwardsby hand    one day, one finger                        at a time &        underneath a canopy                            of rain                underneath the sea                brown...


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