The Floodgate Poetry Series, founded and edited by Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum, collects three chapbooks by three poets in a single volume, published by Upper Rubber Boot Books. Chapbooks—short books under 40 pages—arose when printed books became affordable in the 16th century. The series is in the tradition of 18th and 19th century British and American literary annuals, and the Penguin Modern Poets Series of the 1960s and ’70s. This fifth volume in the series includes Sarah Rebecca Warren’s first collection of verse, Price of Admission; Derrick Weston Brown’s second collection, On All Fronts; and T.R. Hummer’s fifteenth collection, Dark Meter. Enjoy!
Sarah Rebecca Warren
from Price of Admission
In the room of miracle dirt, women weep,
rock back and forth over a decades old pit.
One bends down to scoop cinnamon brown
granules, and she eats. She sobs, chews the grit.
Is it miracles or the heroin, or adobe walls
against turquoise sky that draws the faithful
to this altar of hope, to find solace in a pinch
of powder? That theater of knee-bent repentance—
devotion to something just out of reach.
The voice of a life of crucifixions hums outside.
Perhaps it’s the one who sprouted from dry soil.
I practice the saints, sign of the cross, and search
for milagros through sacred hearts and our ladies.
The man outside sings me to him, breathes deep.
He feeds me pistachios, fresh ground chili.
He thinks in a past life we were saints,
we were born of something more than fire—
pero éste no es el poema que deseo escribir.
There is no miracle here, but blood shot eyes,
wild-running children and graffiti splashed
on sacred walls. Here is where I learn that the heart
is not practical; that the man with an opiate twitch
will always stand at the foot of a curio shop just across
from where pilgrims pray and consume the earth.
Derrick Weston Brown
from On All Fronts
The Root, A haibun for D’Angelo
D, when you dropped Brown Sugar, I already knew you were a legend, before I sliced away the plastic wrap from your CD with my index finger’s nail. Before I dropped your disc, that should have been vinyl, into my player, that should have been a hi-fi, I opened the booklet and read the liner notes. You were Richmond, by way of Chesapeake, by way of James River, by way of current, axis, axe handle, and Pentecostal “Rock me Jesus” heave. You were a choir child, a PK, till you traded Emmanuel for Camille, Jehovah for Jaime Starr. A Prince for a Prince.
Beneath the hymnal
Rapture makes the organ groan
Lord we must confess
I turned three discmen into smoking husks playing your album. -Had heard whispers of your coming within the liner notes of Tribe’s Midnight Marauders. Heard you wrote “U Will Know” for the Jason’s Lyric soundtrack, and then I chanced upon an early duet between you and Badu, your voices cane sugar raw and wet. She, the Tammi to your Marvin, “Your Precious Love” a throw-away on another obscure movie soundtrack. But Brown Sugar begat “Lady” begat “Smooth” begat “When We Get By”, “Shit, Damn, Muthafucka”. I raised a woman’s hem in a dorm room hallway to track one, and by the first cycle (had your album on repeat) my virginity was a satin pillow slip cover, eased off and discarded, never missed.
Sophomore meets Junior
Our tarheel tongues hurricane
Yourrrr Myyy Laaadeee
Chico DeBarge was that bullshit. And soon enough, everybody was eating off your plate. But then you disappeared for a while. We had Maxwell though, which is like comparing pecans to brazil nuts. Cat had the finesse, the croon, but you had that Mason jar shit. Maxwell was a sweaty Brooklyn stoop, but you were muggy southern late August sharecropping heat, slow dragging up front porches
and pushing through screen doors. Word was you weren’t dropping an album for a while and then Voodoo. Nigga.
Prince went and got saved, but you Archangel, Melchizidek, Michael, here you come with your blown bulb afro, guitar, and a body chiseled with abs that had to be cut from black obelisks!? Nigga! Elekes!? Cuba? Talkin bout roots and thangs!? D!? Where you been?
Nineteen Ninety Nine
One breath from Apocalypse
Pass the Chicken Grease
Your album cut deep D. There was a bruise in your music. Somehow love had turned to incense ash in your hands. I heard the beginning of the Soulquarians in the folds of your groove. Questlove was in the studio, Meth, Red, Roy Hargrove, Clapton, and some wunderkind from Detroit named Dilla.
Your album never left my car or my CD case D. The Root, Devil’s Pie, Send It On, Untitled/How Does It Feel? I tried to write a poetic equivalent, tried to finger paint your funk on pages. No sir. No Luck. But one late night, beyond the wasp nest thin walls of my first apartment, I heard a couple push and press out a multi-syllabic rendition of your whole album. Know that people made the type of Love, the type of Fuck to your music, that in 50 years will still make them look at their partner and say, “Who the hell were you that night?” Ah. D. You had that pinnacle shit sewn. I wanted an encore but then you vanished again.
I heard you got fat. Heard hated the cat calls and shrieks for your flesh, and only flesh. It was the video that did you in, not to mention the coke, the liquor, and that hulking menace you felt stalking you in that dark maw just beyond the stage lights. That monster, gnawed Marvin, Cooke, and Donny into bits of blood and biography. Then, there were years of rumors, arrests and mug shots, and the day your SUV swerved, buckled and spit you out across the asphalt highway like suspect dice.
We lost Lauryn (we never had her). Barry’s gone, Issac, Dennis, Gerald, Luther, Michael, Michael, Michael, then Whitney, we lost Aretha. Did you ever meet Amy? And then you return, a jig sawed Osiris, pieced together by guitar string, scar tissue and song.
What you call a man
who courts death and plays music
from Dark Meter
A gray horse came to me out of the fog,
not my horse, but the fog was mine,
And the horse was lost in it, or I was;
but if I was not the rider, someone else
Had fallen, and if I had not fallen, why
had the horse come to me and not another,
And why was the world so numinous
and impossible to see? Her coat was filthy
With sulfurous ooze. She wanted me to groom her,
I would make her beautiful as we had both
Imagined ourselves to be. I would become
the unfallen one for her, traveling into the light.
But I had not fallen. The horse I tell you was not
my horse, it happened ages ago, in another
Country, to people with unpronounceable names,
and lives I can't remember, the dithyramb of half-
Heard hoofbeats. I am too busy here in my fog, living forever.
-from Floodgate Poetry Series Vol. 5, Upper Rubber Books 2019.
BIO: SARAH REBECCA WARREN is a writer, educator, and musician and lives in Dallas, Texas. Sarah received scholarship to study at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference in 2016, and her writing has appeared in Oklahoma Today, Gravel, Luna Luna, and other journals. Her poems "Anatomy of an Eating Disorder" and "Chimayo Mercado" won first place in the Arcturus Fall 2017 Poetry Contest, adjudicated by Ruben Quesada. Sarah is a regular contributor for World Literature Today. She is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. Sarah’s chapbook, Price of Admission, will appear in Floodgate Poetry Series Volume 5 (Upper Rubber Boot Books, March 2019).
DERRICK WESTON BROWN holds an MFA in creative writing, from American University. He has studied poetry under Dr. Tony Medina at Howard University and Cornelius Eady at American University. He is a graduate of the Cave Canem and VONA Voices summer workshops. His work has appeared in such literary journals as The Little Patuxent Review, Mythium, The Tidal Basin Review, and Vinyl online. He was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2012. He worked as a bookseller and book buyer for a bookstore which is operated by the nonprofit Teaching for Change. He was the founder of The Nine on the Ninth, a ten-year-old monthly poetry series at the 14th & V street location of Busboys and Poets. He was the 2012-2013 Writer-In-Residence of the Howard County Poetry Literary Society, of Maryland. He is also a participating DC area author for the PEN/Faulkner Foundation’s Writers-in-Schools program. He’s performed at such esteemed venues as The Nuyorican Poets’ Cafe and the Bowery. He has lead workshops and performed at Georgetown University, George Washington University, Sweet Briar College and Chicago State. He has appeared on Al-Jazeera and NPR as well. In May of 2014 he was also the recipient of a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Grant. He is a native of Charlotte, North Carolina, and resides in Mount Rainier, Maryland. His debut collection of poetry entitled, Wisdom Teeth, was released in April 2011 on Busboys and Poets Press/PM Press.
T. R. HUMMER is the author of thirteen poetry collections, most recently Eon (LSU Press, 2018) and After the Afterlife (Acre Books, 2018). He served as Editor-in-Chief for The Kenyon Review, The New England Review, and The Georgia Review. He has also received numerous awards, including a National Endowment of the Arts Individual Artist Grant in poetry and the Donald Justice Award for Poetry. He lvies in Cold Spring, New York.