Poetry Suite by Robert Lashley

Editor Robert Lashley, Poetry, March 20th, 2017

"Someday, my blood will never be a sunset..."

Robert Lashley poetry suite, art by VHILS
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L.L., April 7th, 3:17PM (TW)
(or, When the Doctor Asked Why the Homeboy Stabbed Himself, He Responded in Stanzas)

 

Someday, my blood will never be a sunset.
Someday, my brain will not be used up.
Someday, I’ll wake and know where the time went.
“The needle took her,” the text message sent
so I pleaded my skin with scissors and cup.
Someday, my blood will never be a sunset.
Away from this world, her needle bent.
Away from life, I left, in drip by drip.
Someday, I’ll wake and know where the time went.
I wanted to go. But what I meant
was I wanted to see her in one last trip.
Someday, my blood will never be a sunset.
Without her, everyday is lent,
everyday away from her arms and lips.
Someday, I’ll wake and know where the time went.
In the wilderness I live-write-repent—
In wilderness away from death’s sharp tip.
Someday, my blood will never be a sunset.
Someday, I’ll wake and know where the time went.

+ + +

The Death of Spartacus on the Strip: Elders Watching the Holmes-Ali Fight
(I lift two lines from “The Hollow Men”)

I.
Rib Plates become homegoing wreaths
the memorex has told over a thousand deaths
as old men kneel and clap and hum
tribunal lines—fades in screen become
the gallows in the middle of the palace
……………“And Holmes continues… systematic, methodical purposeful”
The ring is the end of every revolution.
The young guard jabs
with direct weeping eyes
then crosses him with the length of his wingspan.
The slave soldier crosses to death’s sister kingdom
as lights put out heat but no sun.
……………His hands no longer busy
……….his feet no longer swift.

Tonight, the ropes produce no magic
the young blood is the ax man cometh.
The bell ends a fugue of punches and punches
then renders his silence a sound.
The rollers that leave and the fans that cannot move
renders his silence a sound.
Cries that form concentric circles from the screen
render his silence a sound.
………………………Brothers, brothers, niggas, niggas
………………………let’s go to the burying ground.

II.
Below the hill, the nelson building is a shadow.
The sea harbor’s work is a fetid smell.
and store ruins are crackhead temples.
Harbor roughnecks pain is chopped and proof
in the second life in flickers in the walls.
………………………Brothers, brothers, niggas, niggas
In the back of the bodega
the elders rewitness:
not to testify to art or squalor
but to claim his name in the side room,
to honor all old pug’s upturned graves
and fleeting memories in the tapes.
Tapes show their repeated rainbow sign
through smokers and Saturday cathedrals,
their witness to the sacrifice by glittery hearth
of death-strewn means and ends,
their rite—through contract—to quickly transcend
pyric ends that linger after the TV.
………………………Brothers, brothers, niggas, niggas
………………………let’s go to the burying ground.

III.
Lights that transformed his life to a myth
transform myth to a landscape of the physical.
……………“Angelo is telling the referee to stop it…”
The tape is a fractal to a thousand Sisyphean deaths
yet the old men stay solemn in the ritual.
The old screen loops, then fuzzes then fuzzes
yet they sit in spell of the audio
……………“Bundini is arguing with him.
………………………Brothers, brothers, niggas, niggas”
Lights fray, and the echo of crowds lay still
a hush over the makeshift bungalow
from the meat room to the bar.
The old men pass the Boones farm and scarves
in the pocket of the bootleg Gunicelli’s
they got at the swap meet.
The broadcast—frayed—becomes a jittery chant.
…………...“He would not… he would not give in, Angelo Dundee.
………….He cared about his fighter! Too much!
……………The way Eddie Futch cared about Joe Frazier! Too much!
……………In 1975 in Manilla! Too Much!”
In Vegas, the gladiator’s life is a funeral.
The old men kneel their head in benediction
and the continued sacrifice of the body.
………………………Let’s go to the burying ground.
………………………Let’s go to the burying ground.

+ + +

The Funeral Procession for Aunt Helen at Her Favorite Swap Meet

 

The train envelope’s everything and nothing,
an accent-bass toned-over church bound cadences,
thick trombones dissonant
………in the telling and retelling of exodus.
The continuum of Gabriel and the Northwest Unlimited
charges—recharges—cleaves and moulds
………church bottoms upon bottoms
assorts them in stations, signposts and gates.

It provides a scale for her seashell man
calling with his corner horn
………as his trinkets dance above the table plastic.
It is the pattern of her fry cook
and her breaded pagan altars
………that delivered her from various deltas.
It is the choir for the bootleg man
and his trick bag of songs
………Transparent and undeciphered.

And as the train passes the bridge and river
they move and talk of an elusive land
………of quiet rest and impassioned sanctuary
in praise songs that run through the vacant lot
………and about their entire bodies
their instruments—in a triangle, in triad, in unison
are played in their timbers beyond age and wear
as morning trains still head for a home.

+ + +

A Father’s 20th Funeral Anniversary

 

Aside no church, thugs hear invisible chimes
and yellow tape fluttering in the leaves.
………The old man’s dust
recolors everything around it
in an oblong powder light.

By the fence, the dope boys
barely make their stomps.
Unresponsive service lines
do not move in cadences
but away and straight off buses.
Quarter words of sayers
transposed with heretics
are a blur past layers of dirts.

The old man claps, and particles
become a flock of nightbirds.
Ruins of a playground
are not ruins nor a playground.
The arcs of the busted jungle gym
lift and resheath their metal swords.
and the swing set chain stops its hanging.
Yellow flags flutter above the hill
………and the jetstream
and piles on the sidewalk give witness.

In chalk, the old man makes his ash interact
the bounce off rock after rocks
smoke sieves and reforms
among disjointed bricks
as the dope boys leer around, nervous.

At night, the chalk line
is body-grained specter.
A sister lays her rosary beads.
In a vestibule of space after space
Dope boys are awash
in their root keys to a land
where they cannot think anymore.
White sage sinks to become burnt out strands

and them niggas fall to the floor.

+ + +

Drake’s Progress
(or, Why I Can’t Cry for My Wannabe Gangsta Cousin Living on the Block Now, and Feel Like an Asshole About It)

 

Your final picture of him cannot lay still.
Revenge—in all its sophistries—cannot warm your heart,
and ice takes reincarnation in all forms.
Bred wolves and killaz make everything bedlam
and the sad boy has tears beyond tats.

What is a king to a god of caught weight?
What is a god to a man-boy defrocked of status
in a paradise he imagined but never saw?
In a Byzantium of bright shiny grain leaden picnics
in fields only safe in HD screens.
Poor houses are jumping from the block to the (food) bank
but the gilded trap boy roams in a stasis,
a trap-debtors prison of time and calumny
as functionless as corner spots are fluid,
as spun as the smoke and the lean he dreamed
but now becomes him like a nightmare.

Masses have snatched from him all that resembles gold.
Outfits—outlandish once—are now his smudged markers
across the dirt of his Alabama starter jersey.
Shadows that bedeviled you are in the whites of his eyes.
Black guards here replenish and replenish again
and the rich boy cannot leave the scene.
The mountain you climbed that he tumbled toward
is too dark now, and here comes the 8 bus.

+ + +

Header image courtesy of Alexandre Farto AKA VHILS. To view a feature of his art on NAILED, go here.

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Robert Lashley

Robert Lashley is the author of The Homeboy Songs (Small Doggies Press, 2014). A semi finalist for the PEN/Rosenthal fellowship, Lashley has had poems and essays published in such Journals as Feminete, No Regrets, NAILED, and Your Hands, Your Mouth. His work was also featured in Many Trails To The Summit, an anthology of Northwest form and Lyric poetry. To quote James Baldwin, he wants to be an honest man and a good writer.