a question of rain
after Jayson Smith
being wet is the only option. you
crawl outside. throw yourself against the
drain—it’s better this way. pushing your
ethereal against the metal ribs of the curb’s curl and
finish. as a black boy,
all you have is your moist. your
gout-blood lip when
he slips, sinks beneath your skin. what terrifies you
isn’t the storm, but the looming light afterwards.
the pearled sky quiet as a seed.
just as rain, you were born to be there.
and then not. like
kinfolk. your voice a cloud fermented
inside the throat,
birthed in the shape of wanting.
luther, you thought you could walk on water—his
mouth sly, slick against your black corpse—
now, he says.
open. this is what happens when two things meet:
the flesh turns inward like a fist,
starved and thirsty. the earth
pining for a boy
quieted—you don’t know the meaning of emptiness.
how it can’t be
removed. how the body
succumbs to the single
tongue’s whip. truth is,
under all that mess, is more mess,
venerating the wash of what the body can handle.
how the body
wails. and the wails sings you still inside his flooded chest
‘xactly how you imagined—can
you hear it? can you hear
broken sonnet for osteoarthritis
we have known death to be an accident,
but you fondle my grandfather
like a monsoon swiping its knuckle
against the blue cavernous mouth—
mother ocean, mother yemoja—
the breakage of the body’s dress. i held water
behind my eyelids, called you many names:
reckless. the devil’s hand. the levee
anchoring his legs broke: a storm beading
the floor no accident you bury limbs
under bloodied mess the single tissue a red ribbon oh the places
you gift them as for gods your name katrina
loving the bone slow mother
wreckage mother debris
broken ghazal for osteoarthritis
again, you come a patient scythe. first for my grandfather, how you tongued
the vitals, made home an empty bowl. now, my father, his tongue,
barbed, unfolds a whisper: i have it too. we sit in the car. i watch you chew
the cartilage like a wolf—the bones jagged, dressed in red, tonguing
familiar fruit. (this can’t happen. this can’t happen.) i sit watching
you harvest my father’s voice: i have it too— tonguing
the city of teeth, first, like my grandfather. now, my father looks at me,
eyes thin as a leather belt, unthreads it’s hereditary. my tongue
breaks into a silence, makes home a feathered throat. (this can’t happen.
luther, this can’t happen.) the car pulls into the driveway, a tongue
wanting a way in. we hear you nest inside my father’s palm—knuckles
cackle, cackle. the garage door a white mouth, spills its black tongue
as it opens. you don’t move. we sunder under you
like a monolith. i’ll admit, i’m afraid of you. name a blade to my tongue.
i sit. you drink my father. bone by bone. i open the car door,
hear you croon like the metals tossing. breaking against the air.
Luther Hughes is a Seattle native, but currently lives in Chicago where he is pursuing his B.A. in poetry at Columbia College Chicago. He currently curates, “Shade,” a literary blog for queer writers of color. A Pushcart Prize nominee, Luther’s work have been published or is forthcoming in Solstice Literary Magazine, Muzzle Magazine, Winter Tangerine, Vinyl Poetry, Word Riot, and others. You can follow him on Twitter @lutherxhughes. He thinks you are beautiful. Selected by David Ishaya Osu.
Image copyright Natasha Marin.