Category: Poetry (Page 1 of 12)

Something to Cool You Off

by Dean Smith

Saturday afternoon, summer of ’44, heat rising
from the Durham tar, Private Booker T. Spicely
boarded a bus, cradling a watermelon for a mother and her son,
strode proudly in uniform into the second to last row.

The driver, Lee Council, watched him from the mirror,
never said a word until two white soldiers got on, then pointed
to the State Law sign requiring negroes to “sit from the rear,”
and told the black soldier to move all the way back.

Spicely stood up, smiled, and said, “If I can take a bullet
and die for democracy, I can sit anywhere I damn well please.”
The white soldiers nodded, in solidarity, and boldly landed
in the negro section, defying the law. Spicely joined the white soldiers

and Council cursed them all for crossing the line and Booker shot back,
“If you weren’t a goddamn 4-F”—meaning unfit to serve—
“you wouldn’t be driving this bus.” The driver glared
at the black soldier and said, “I’ve got something to cool you off.”

Spicely apologized, “I’m sorry, driver, if something I said
may have offended you. I beg your pardon, I didn’t mean any harm.”
Then he sat on the farthest-back bench for the duration
of his ride, exiting at Fourth and Club Boulevard.

Council watched him disembark and snatched a .38 from
underneath his seat, headed down the steps, waiting for Spicely
to approach the front of the bus and shot the soldier in the chest, piercing
his dog tags, and then shot him again, leaving him there to bleed to death.

Military police drove him to Watts Hospital but it was for whites only
and yet they still tested him for alcohol, and the result was negative.
Born in Blackstone, Virginia, son of Lazarus and Alberta, tall and strong
as if cut from timber, stationed at Camp Butner on a weekend pass—

Booker T. Spicely died upon arrival at Duke Hospital, gunpowder
burns on his uniform, one on the chest and one near the liver,
thirty-four years old, and in a crooked scrawl his death certificate
stated “homicide” from a “pistol shot wound through heart.”

Council finished his route, then turned himself in, bailed out
that night by Duke Power which operated the city bus concession,
and he appeared cool and collected as he lied on the witness stand,
saying his life was in danger: that the black soldier had reached

into his pocket for an imaginary gun; that the black
soldier had threatened to cut his throat on previous rides.
An all-white jury took twenty-eight minutes to set
the driver free and he went back to work the next week.

Saturday afternoon, summer of ’24, heat rising
from the Durham tar, Booker will be eighty years gone—
how much longer will these killings go on? There is no marker
or monument for the fallen black soldier, just the voices of witnesses

who said he was “shot down like a dog and left on the ground,”
and “if a black man had killed a bus driver, he would’ve been lynched
by sundown,” in a city once hailed for the taste of its tobacco—Private Spicely
served our country against the Nazis only to be murdered by Jim Crow.


Dean Smith is a poet, author, and freelance journalist whose poems have appeared in Open CityPoetry East, Gulf Stream, and upstreet, among others. His new book of poems, Baltimore Sons, will be published in 2021 by Stillhouse Press. His first book of poems, American Boy, was published in 2000 by Washington Writer’s Publishing House and is available here on the Internet Archive. He published a nonfiction work,  Never Easy, Never Pretty (Temple University Press, 2013) about the Baltimore Ravens. He is the director of Duke University Press.

The Search for Happiness

By Cliff Saunders

Want to be happier?
Welcome birds to your
vast coral bed of remembrance.

You are assured of getting
your compass of moles,
your weekly copy of available space.

Give your heart a little bit
of soul, a pivotal spin
on the altar of your mountain porch.

Read More

Sweet Nothings

By Cliff Saunders

There is no brotherhood of smiling wizards,
no mantra against the bells of teen spirit.

No mystery here—stones celebrate with song
how they shape the world into mountains

and waterfalls, their voices full of gracefulness
and elegance. We ought to let them dream

Read More

Into the Afterlife

By Cliff Saunders

What happens when you die?
I think you’ll open at last
into the pain of oceans,
into memory and its horizon,

into music, music, music.
I can’t tell you when the lilies
will be glorious, when red flags
will be singing over the edge

Read More

Decade Old Elegy: Personal Dream

by Sean Cho A.

and you wake. You’re in the passenger’s seat
now here’s the first choice:
look forward or
look left
what you chose says a lot
about trust. Let’s say you look left.
The man driving looks like your father.

Read More

Rock

By Guna Moran

A rock can only be made smaller
By beating and hitting
Can never be made larger

Rocks are generally homeless
They lay everywhere

Read More

Mother

By Guna Moran

Mother
Bless me to turn into dust
Would stay stuck to both your feet every day

Mother
Bless me to be your teardrops
Would glitter in your eyes in times of joy and sorrow

Read More

The Cult of One Mirror and You

BY: DANIEL EDWARD MOORE

When playing with yourself                becomes your       self
        & there aren’t enough           razors             in the medicine chest

to manscape your world    into    highways    &   bi     ways
            yes, the eagle has landed           but no            this is not a leap

for mankind       on to a lunar landscape       of love        this is
          the cult of         one mirror & you           as history blushes with

ecstasy’s shame      & the rain forest       burns        between your legs
         as your boa       constricts            for the third time      today
                      in this          your most global        hour.


Daniel Edward Moore lives in Washington on Whidbey Island. He has poems forthcoming in Weber Review, The Cape Rock, KestrelRed Earth Review, RipRap, The Timberline Review, River Heron ReviewPassages North, The Tipton Poetry Journal, Passengers JournalThe Night Heron Barks, and Sweet Tree Review. He is the author of two chapbooks, Confessions of a Pentecostal Buddhist (CreateSpace) and Boys (Duck Lake Books). Waxing the Dents is a full length collection from Brick Road Poetry Press. Visit him at Danieledwardmoore.com.

Summer Novel

BY: THEA GOODMAN

Done, stand in the woods
pages behind you
insects screaming
like nothing has happened. 

(A bottle slips from your hand
Beer into peat, the trees
in German beer gardens
relish their hops.
leaves grow dense and shady)

It feels like a book,
thumbs scrolling through time
as if the screen is liquid,
and the characters are impossibly
relatable.

(Pour the whole bottle out into the ground.
No need for the blurring.)

Behind you the house is lit,
chapters snapping like magna tiles,
slices of yellow and orange,
warm the rooms,
plexiglass attachments,
coming together with relief.

(Leave the bottle there
It’s degradable, and your own yard.
An awning of delectable shade will
shelter you.
Sand will return and all the pages
too will vanish.)

Hand on the knob,
return to the living
more and less human.
The children are sleeping,
you haven’t said goodnight. 


Thea Goodman is the author of a novel, THE SUNSHINE WHEN SHE’S GONE (Henry Holt and Co. 2013.) Her fiction, essays and poetry have appeared in this journal, The Rumpus, The New England Review and other venues and have been awarded a Pushcart Prize Special Mention and The Columbia Fiction Award. She’s at work on a new novel and poems and periodically teaches writing at The University of Chicago. 

Post Truth & I Watch the Fireworks

BY: JASPER HAZE

& so, it was as it always is
the beginning a little shaking
& the end an effervescence
before long no one talked about it
as they are trying to now
taking liberty by the lapels
one-part muddled mint
equal parts gin, shaken not stirred
a panatela between the fingers
observing the new world
a highly marketable machine
they are toyetic, but charms
like theirs come at a price
as much as a one-way ticket
to Mars, out of this town
out of this world, fast as light
temerarious heights, manifest destiny
they’re a go for launch, now or never
new frontier, finders keepers
a fuselage penetrating gravity
manspreading, breaking loose & free
conquistador, ahistorical, non-umbilical


Jasper Haze is an absurd logophile who lives in the Bay Area. He is an IT professional at Stanford University and holds an MFA in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College. His work has appeared in the Cimarron Review, Barrow Street, Harpur Palate, and elsewhere.

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