- The Man Who Paints Mountains and Helicopters
for Rodney Denne Not the coin and not the thumb. Not even the palm it smacks down on, heads up. You are not the choice, no matter what it looks like today with each brush stroke impaling sky with stone or blades the color of coin. Even if the canvas calls you something painful like survivor, remember there was no omen. No machete shaped cloud to say two Blackhawks would fill up with the living then be emptied of the dead. Emptied by the platoon that went on foot because you asked for a coin toss, because you called it in the air and nothing you can call god held that coin in its fist, turned its face towards sky. You wish it were simple: an invisible hand next to the two of yours that have sorted metal from man and found only wreckage. Rifled through fused dog tags and welds of limbs, wondering who began where. How are the rifles connected? I know you see yourself in one chopper, somewhere in those three seconds [End Page 6] between first explosion and second, when you’d know the friendly beacon was off, the hellfire missile locked on, and think only of the rubble of machine that was next to you a moment ago. I know you toss a coin in your mind when you paint a moon beyond the summit. As you watch it flip over forever. As you tuck in two boys with smiles like fault lines. As you turn down sheets that will be twine around your limbs by morning, know that you are not the tail or head of the coin. Rodney, you are the spinning, you are the coin’s ridge; you are what happens between sand/soil/clay and sky. [End Page 7]
Jamaal May is the author of Hum (Alice James Books, 2013), winner of the 2012 Beatrice Hawley Award, as well as two poetry chapbooks (The God Engine, 2009, and The Whetting of Teeth, 2012). His work has appeared or is forthcoming in New England Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Callaloo, Indiana Review, and Blackbird, among other journals, anthologies, films, and broadcasts. Honors include scholarships and fellowships from Bread Loaf Writers Conference, Cave Canem, and Callaloo. Jamaal is a graduate of Warren Wilson’s MFA program for writers and the 2011–2013 Stadler Fellow at Bucknell University.