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  • Ode to the #6 Jackson Park Express, and: Uncensored, and: “Caldonia”
  • Cheswayo Mphanza (bio)

Ode to the #6 Jackson Park Express

after Tim Seibles

    The fungi express. The unused funk in Bootsy’s bass lines        and riffs. Illicit pleasures of what bodies on the south side            lust for, blasting from speakerphones: I wish I could                give you this feeling; I wish I could give this feeling.                    The distant stares at the side of your sooty windows                        that gave me a sweeter scent from the Swisher Sweets    and Black & Milds; the musk of all the marauders        who rode you in the summer, bullet-eyed and waiting                for triggers to clutch. The early morning wake-up calls                    from the woman in rags, who stood in the front preaching                        of Jehovah, saying she was a witness to a testament    I could not believe in. The tithes and offerings        spent on Cheetos and honeybuns, salvation            in gyros and baptism in mystic drinks.                The seats I gave up to old black women                    who all reminded me of the women                        that raised me over dominoes    and house music. Thank you for holding        my mother and all those other women            who worked overtime, how intransigent                their bones must have become, fighting                    the temptation of rest on your hard seats,                        while clutching their purses, accustomed    to the malice of your comfort. Thank you        to all the bus drivers who didn’t use            their bulletproof plastic doors on 79th [End Page 28]     and let on passengers who rode        without paying, knowing the heavier                        toll their bodies carried. Curse the bump                    of its stop when it ran over the neighbor’s                daughter, the mother running to each scattered limb,            trying to piece back body parts and how we all        watched in melancholic wonder, maybe thinking    it was possible. I did not cry that day. I probably wentwith a friend to a corner store and attached my arms    to bags of chips, touching and leaving corners        that hugged us, feeling like all we’ll ever know            is 75th & South Shore Drive. What did we know                of death outside the body? Of friendship                    and how it hangs on the hinges of being lost        with someone? Our bus rides, seated in the back    with a fear or longing to not be left at the last stop.


for Redd Foxx

Sometimes I dream of a solar eclipse in my eyes I have grown too weary of the naked eye and its weaknesses in the light beyond gentle reflections and their sensitive images there are darker hues sinister colors and obscene visions I want to wield to drink spirits and howl blasphemies to speak ghostly and ghastly rattling god with evocative gestures to lust after saints and turn sacrilegious their divine convictions gospels of loneliness and martyrdom do not bury me gently I do not want to be perfumed and catalogued bones or delivered the denizen’s dozen bouquets of orchids tulips and carnations I want to be a pile of fresh ash to fade into some ominous place I want to breathe in the nauseating scent of holiness curse believers and laugh softly with a sanctified woman in the shadows take me to a sacred rock where I’ll give my testimony about vision and its impaired sightings fragmented scenes and disturbing revelations deliver me from these eyes I want to close them and fold myself in their unreliable darkness and be brushed into locks of wind [End Page 29]


for LaWanda Page

        Women are suckers and so are the menwho call them ladies. Some prefer a helping hand    going up the stairs or stepping down

    some horse-drawn carriage. I prefer the deacon’shand rattling the legs like an usher’s hand    on the collection plate at an afternoon service.

        And maybe I might cool my lustwith communion vials of wine. Lord, I am not a saint;    I want the devil’s heat to stir inside me.

        Hell sounds like a lovely placefor unfinished women who wish to reach    a different kind of holy ghost, being handled

        in devilish ways. Honey, pour me a fifthof 90-proof rum, some firewater for my baptism.    I want...


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pp. 28-30
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