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,
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.