My blood came to a halt when it was said of her
That she was frequent I found her rare none
Like her among human variety Not one other dips
The hand to talk with words or flings the head
To illustrate a mood just so
The way she knees the air in walk or throws her
Hair into the wind And in the banter of her talk
The eastward glancing of the eyes Those tipsy busy
Turns she makes as if replying to a bird the
Lonely sagging lower lip when down from under
She comes up to breathe in little sighs (On counter
Top her bony knuckles rap the jukie beat)
The momentary sway in rising from her chair to brush
The wrinkles from her skirt
How to call you less than solitary uncommon
an infrequent passing
The King Is Dead!
The King is dead!
In some black town,
Some white suburb
There is an influence in the air
As definite as his death.
Uncertainty fills the National Soul.
Black tears crystallize
From too many white wishes
Hearts are sore
From too much weeping.
The King will come again
Reads an ancient oracle.
From the streets
Of Bethlehem's quiet hostility
A word goes forth,
"He has and he was black."
Al's Fix-It Shop
The only work my father knew
Was with strong hands
That shaped – turned down – wrenched
Welded – measured – drilled – heated
Pounded – bent – curved – tapped
Into a surface of satisfaction.
Most of all I remember those hands,
The dark grease and oil stains
That filled the irregular
Lines of his fingers and palms,
Or after a day of welding
Those open sores that bled
Onto a trailer he was repairing,
And those hands, so battered
By the toil of work that he ached
In the evening when mother
Poured iodine over his knuckles.
And always – just in case – peroxide
Boiled over the wounds.
Oh, how he believed in peroxide!
How peroxide was better than a surgeon's knife,
Better than a visit to any doctor.
In the evening, after the shop closed
And supper over, father would descend
Into the depths of the house
And I could hear the big machine
Turning down a large stock of metal
And the shavings falling beneath the lathe,
Twisted hair, spun of a sorcerer's loom.
He would sing with a low,
Then high sounding tone
That boomed on my ears
From the grease-smelling cave below,
Like the rising tempo of a jazz singer,
In the finale of an evening show
On cabin bunk with head at rest
I audit with my eye
A score of rafters reaching west
And one drunk cabin fly.
He circles where the light makes plain
His universe of dust
He loops around the room again
Then puts down where he must.