L. Lamar Wilson
Times Like These: Marianna, Florida
One woe is past; &, behold, there come two woes more hereafter.—Revelation 9:12
In one field, corn husks, muscadine vines & a sugar cane graveyard furrow acres aching
for the devil to beat his wife. In another, a skein of maggots & mayflies, their musk thick
& resolute, jockey for the cow’s afterbirth. Down Old U.S. Road apiece, weevils wheeze
& chafed bales of hay settle for the wind’s sneezes. Wait for a sign, the couple says & set
their table with damask, fresh-pressed for a feast of sardines & cornbread. Train their child
in the way he should babble. From dusk till dusk, they lull the boy with tales of a faraway
sea, buckets of oysters to shuck. OurFatherwhichartinheavenhallowedbethynamethykingdom
comethywillbedoneonearthasitisinheaven. Still no rain. From dusk till dusk, they till dust.
Then they reach for the locks of hair & black-eyed peas, stowed away for times like these.
Lost & Found in Tallahassee
Eres uno de nosotros! the old women chant as they circle
me at the center table. Their molasses hands smooth
my pimply cheeks. You are one of us! they sing, the beat
of their pattering feet in sync with my quaking knees.
They have journeyed from Nacimiento to thank students
who have decided to civilize them. Eres un Mascogo,
says one who looks like my grandmother’s sister. You are
a black Seminole. She traces the scars on the hand
that will not move, that I try to hide, speaks of a home
I never knew I knew. What to say? Soy un americano
negro, I mumble. Esto es nuestro hogar, también, she hums.
This is not your home, too. This is not the story I have memorized.
I am a reporter, here to capture a tale of new sewer lines
& streetlights that will make her blue-black face shine.
¿Qué se les gustaria decir a los estudiantes? I probe again.
I need a soundbite, graveling that fits the news I must print.
I do not tell her she is mocked across this city’s tracks with
a Hey-ya-hooo! & fake war paint. I do not have to. My pen
is running out of ink. My rehearsed accent fails. Her eyes wrinkle
into smiles. Eres uno de nosotros! Eres uno de nosotros! Eres uno …
My nephew waltzes beside his father,
the man who was the boy who made Faggot!
a reason not to flinch. His neck a merry-
go-round, our boy rears back, waves
his pointer in my face, jabs his other fist
into his hip & wails: Watch yo’ mouth!
Watch yo’ mouth, Miss Effie White! ’Cause I
Don’t take no mess from no second-rate diva
Who can’t sustain! In my brother’s eyes, I see
the pain of remembering when I crooned―Don’t
tell me not to live. Just sit & putter. Life’s candy
& the sun’s a ball of butter―& made him grimace.
I scan the wall of plaques in Mama’s den,
the remnants of home runs & aces that gave
him hope then, all dusty now. Teeth clenched,
he smiles at his dreamboy & nods in disbelief.
Harrumphs. Lashes flittering, he offers me
the only penance he can: a sheepish grin.
We applaud & feign heartened laughter.
My nephew sees beyond the veil shrouding
his father’s eyes. Realizes this isn’t
how brown boys win favor. Searches
my eyes for answers. Mirrors
a sadness no song can shake.
-from Sacrilegion, selected by Guest-Editor Mark J. Brewin Jr.
BIO: L. Lamar Wilson has poems in or forthcoming in African American Review, Los Angeles Review, jubilat, The 100 Best African American Poems, The New Sound, Black Gay Genius, and other journals and anthologies. Sacrilegion, his first collection, was selected by Lee Ann Brown for the Carolina Wren Press Poetry Series. Individual poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and won the 2011 Beau Boudreaux Poetry Prize. Wilson has received fellowships from the Cave Canem Foundation, the Callaloo Workshops, the Alfred E. Knobler Scholarship Fund, and the Arts and Sciences Foundation at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he's pursuing a doctorate in African American and multiethnic American poetics.