11-9-2020

 

Tommye Blount

Americana Elegy

 

Less boy, more band,

more twang, less bling,

 

less hip-hop, on brand,

more opry, less bang,

less cornrows, more corn-

 

field, spiritual, less house,

more plantation, a shorn

 

image, more downhome,

more green, more blue

sky, more bluegrass,

 

less rhythm, less

blues, more church pew,

 

more cross, less hood,

more hood, more white

washed denim, less back-

 

lash, more goldenrod,

less ballad, more lyric,

 

less gold grills, less rap

sheet, more sheet music,

less trap beat, less trap

 

beat, more poplar,

less popular, a more authentic timbre,

 

more big game, more field

dressing, more lake,

more master—control.

 

 

 

Historical Site

 

Still it’s dark enough

this morning that I can see

the fireflies going off and on—

recording what angles

the old house’s cameras cannot

see. Something is watching me,

so I keep my distance

when I strain my eyes to read

the lit plaque

to the left of the front door.

My eyes are useless;

vision not good enough

to parse out what part of history

is important enough to warrant

bronze foundry. I overheard at Meijer

one day that some part of this house

was used to hide slaves until nightfall

when they’d follow the stars

south of here, to Canada. As often with history,

this house has been restaged. Not even the land it squats on

is the original address, the house lifted

from its foundation

a mile down the road,

yet it makes for a lovely setting for white

weddings, picnics, guided tours.

I’m afraid of this big house

when it is dark like this;

when I am dark like this.

Not a slave, I can read

and want to run

my finger across the raised lettering,

even though that would trigger some alarm;

would flood the yard with white light;

would signal the police to come

and the police would flood me with white light—

so many stars spangling all over me.

I’d be the constellation those runaways

angled their necks up to—

blinking and blinking.

 

 

Icarus Does the Dishes

 

It leaves a mark on me when I fall

in my father’s kitchen.

Only a few days it’s been

of lifting him up from one place,

then putting him down somewhere else,

then driving to work for the late shift

while a nurse looks after him

for five hours, three times a week—

all we can afford. There is no choice

sometimes, I have to leave him

alone. I ignore the soreness

of the bruise taking shape on my ass,

because these dishes won’t clean themselves

and Father hasn’t had his bath. It embarrasses us,

especially the rolling back of his foreskin,

the veins, tiny stitches on the inside

of a Minotaur’s mask, so I let him wash that part

while I look away. He does not see me

this way, on the floor. I’m twenty-five

and agile, it is no accident, but

a tantrum. I throw the dishes.

All around me, shards; a constellation—

stars for which I have no names.

We are lost. What have I done,

I’m thinking now, in telling the hospital

I can do this; I can manage just fine.

In the next room, through the wall,

he asks me if I’m okay;

if I need him to do anything?

Please die, I whisper then sweep

the stars, turn back toward the sun

soaking in the gray water.

-from Fantasia for the Man in Blue (Four Way Books, 2020), selected by Fall 2020 PoemoftheWeek.com Guest Editor Angela Narcisco Torres

Tommye Blount grew up in Detroit, Michigan. He earned an MFA from Warren Wilson College. He is the author of the poetry collection Fantasia for the Man in Blue (2020) and the chapbook What Are We Not For (2016). Blount has been awarded scholarships and fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Cave Canem, and Kresge Arts. He lives in Novi, Michigan.

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