Two Poems

May 27, 2018   •   By Joshua Bennett


These poems appear in the LARB Print Quarterly Journal: No. 18,  Genius

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Will naturally begin
with a blues note.
Some well-adorned
lovelorn lyric
about how
your baby left
& all you got
in the divorce
was remorse.
& a mortgage.
& a somewhat
morbid, though
mostly metaphorical,
obsession with
the underground.
How it feels to live
in such unrelenting emptiness,
unseen, altogether un-correctable
by the State’s endless arms.
Just imagine: Ellison’s Prologue
set to the most elaborate
Metro Boomin instrumental
you can fathom, brass
horns & pulsar cannons
firing off in tandem
as Aretha lines a hymn
in the footnotes. Twelve &
a half minutes of unchecked,
bass-laden braggadocio.
The most imitated,
incarcerated human
beings in the history
of the world & every nanosecond
of the band’s boundless
song belongs to us.
It is ours, the way
the word overcome
or The Wiz or Herman
Melville is ours. In any corner
store or court of law, any
barbershop argument
or hours-long spat
over Spades. The Next Black
National Anthem will,
by the rule, begin
in blood, & span
our ongoing war against
oblivion. Clarify the anguish
at the core of our gentleness.
How even that generosity
is a kind of weapon.
This music, our blade
-d criticism of a country
obsessed with owning
everything that shimmers,
or moves with a destination
in mind. Even the sky.
Even the darkness
behind our eyes
when we dream.


What I desired most was approachlessness,
enough fear to mark a sharp & ardent
wall between me & the broader social
sphere, think: semi-invisible
force-field, think: aura light
umber like Bruce Leroy.
A beauty one might use to keep
a state-sanctioned grave
at bay, the distance
this darker body ought
to buy but doesn’t.
If evolution were kind,
we would all be fireproof
by now. A shame, to be sure: this
brutal truth boomeranging back
& forth across America’s oeuvre,
History stammering with blood
in its throat, blood on the books, blood
on the leaves & what can you right
-fully call living now that the dead
have learned to dance so well?
Knife wounds in the global sky,
White god on my childhood mind
& you want to talk about repair