Issue: Reimagining / Poetry

Poetry by Luther Hughes

ritual-to-alleviate-white-guilt-2

pond with blood

for the victims of the Orlando Shooting

in a poem about murder,
i write myself
a large field. in the middle
of the field, a pond pregnant
with fish. at night, a bloom
of roses sing, i’m beautiful,
from the field’s pupil.
nobody cares for a flower
with thorns. aside
the field’s cheek, “a highway,”
i write, “after-murdered.”
there is blood aside the curb
of the highway
from the roses lost.
“roseblood,” rolls
from my tongue,
into the poem’s end.
there’s always blood.

i walk across the field,
from the highway’s steep,
grass lifted like small tongues.
i rave on and on about the bodies.
“and a fir tree aside the pond,”
said the poem. the pond, in all its wet
tussles.

*

inside the pond, the fish,
some turquoise-green, some pink,
some thick with tailfins, silver
in the way it pools behind,
swim single-file from end
to end. the entire school
a brilliant cobra.
scales parading
their lyric. i ask permission
to speak about the shooting,
but the pond-snake is silent.
unbothered by the weight of it all.

*

it’s night. i’m thirsty
for the flowers’ hum.
i knew i was harmless,
imagining a scene
from beneath my fingerprint.

the moon lay wedged
between the stars
and i’m impatient.
i reach for the most
distant rose, of course,
across the field.
i knew better,
but reached anyways,
nightsky etching
my body’s outline.

*

poor death. this poem is really
about you. not once was i clear…

black bodies keep dying.
brown bodies keep dying.

i hollow the memory
with the truth:
i cried that morning
when my phone bled
the news.

i’m alone.

i’m afraid to pray.

i give the pond
the taste of tears
and continue
within the scene.

*

i lay atop the pond. nothingness
blankets my body.
i’m quiet in this poem, consumed,
bullet by bullet, by what’s left
of us. of what’s to come.
but who’s to say? the night
is wide. arduous. doesn’t budge.
even for me.

*

i’m beautiful.
there they are:
the os at the tip
of the petals,
fanning
patiently
as the night-
moon
gilds
their voices.
thorns
alive,
harping
the cool
dark.
i’m beautiful.

*

as a poet, i’m interested
in the firefly’s dance.
their brush and glow. i want
to sprinkle them across
the poem, mimic the body’s
love for music. see the dead
pick dirt from the corners
of their jaws, become
light.

*

i’m a simple magic.
i dash into bone—the thick root
of the body’s make. their faces—
fragile angels—i want to see
against the sky’s trail
into line. give me a song,
begs the fir. make me a rose.
i ask the fir of their names.
the fir is lucid,
shakes its pines in disapproval.
i scratch the question,
blushed with furry,
continue anyways:

edward
luis
jean
xavier
stanley
kimberly
franky
gilberto
juan
eddie
amanda
oscar
eric
darryl
martin
simon
luis
deonka
luis
enrique
peter
anthony
mercedez
miguel
javier
jason
cory
juan
luis
jonathan
christoper
frank
shane
brenda
angel
geraldo
akyra
paul
antonio
christopher
alejandro
rodolfo
tevin
yilmary
joel
jean
juan
jerald
leroy

*

i want to restart the poem
from within
the red mouth of anger.
when the breeze arrows
my skin, the pond wonders:
what now? a frog? a small 
field rodent? at this point,
i’m obsessed with fireflies
and the roses croon
a little louder.

*

i want joy—
the kind that unbuttons
your shirt,
pants,
in the navel of july.
cast you into the summer
air.
but all i see are their faces
on the inside of my eyelids.
i dip into the pond.
the serpent’s silk
avoids
my naked body.
if this is joy—
this poem,
this unscathed body—
then why do i write
such somberness?
conclusion: i’m a mess.

*

to keep from the end of the poem,
the pond opens it’s moist womb,
holds me by the stomach. i’m afloat.
i decorate the pond’s girth
with prophesied cattails—both long
and wild—i write them the gift
of comfort. the cattails sway—
after caressing my smoldered
frown, the furrow in my voice
vanishing from my throat—
their slender torsos, whine
a question:
did i, o god, did i as i said i’d do? good
can i be a rose? i want petals.
i watch the fireflies hover above
the cattails broken palindrome—
above the names—and think.

*

poor death. this poem is really
about them.

*

as dawn blossoms
into the pond’s shallow
blue, the roses tuck in
their thorns. their budding
crowns. lilts softening,
spreading across
the field.
the highway—jealous,
attention hungry—
smears roseblood
like makeup
across its face:
make me beautiful, too.
say my name.
to be honest, i’m tired
of writing this poem…

everyone wants to be a rose, 
but nobody wants the thorns

dingbatsmaller
luther-hughes-headshotLuther Hughes received his BA in poetry from Columbia College Chicago. An MFA candidate at Washington University in St. Louis, he is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Shade Journal, a poetry journal for queer writers of color, and Associate Poetry Editor for The Offing. Winner of the Brutal Nation Poetry Prize and Windy City Times Chicago, 30 Under 30 Honoree, Luther’s work has been published or is forthcoming in NAILED Magazine, Vinyl Poetry, Winter Tangerine, Solstice Literary Magazine, and others. You can follow him on Twitter @lutherxhughes. He thinks you are beautiful.

Author photo credit: Daryl Terrell.

Featured Image ©Natasha Marin. “Ritual To Alleviate White Guilt 2″These photos are documentation from a Midnight Tea hosted in 2015 at LxWxH Gallery in Seattle. Participants who self-identified as white gathered for a one-of-a-kind ritual involving chopped onions, full-body prostrations, and blindfolds. More information at www.mikokuro.com.

 

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