I wrote last month about the road trip I took with some friends to visit the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and participate in the ArtLines Juried Competition. This week I've been working on those poems. Here are three of them, along with the works that inspired them.
Wrapped in the trunk of a Sapele tree
I heard an elephant bathing in
the rainforest bai. Light poured down through the leafy
canopy; every beam sugared carbon
strings into mahogany heartwood. This
was before the sawmills, the tree
hewn by hand, bush cricket my first music.
Forged copper scraped me a hollow body,
elegant neck, elongated head achieved
by binding the infant skull. The sharpest
blade cut me a mouth. The green mantis
folded its arms and prayed. I was made to be
African elsewhere. I never learned
Mangbetu language, its voiced and unvoiced
trill. I speak only with a mouth carved shut.
This is my blade hand, cutting through
on my way to you.
Before it can fade, hand over
the cheek slap
what’s in your wallet
and I’ll keep it safe for you.
This jade hand-shaped pendant, look at it
ripple like ocean waves
stiff with regal power
empty to the gods
now drilled with holes, waving at you.
ALLEGORY OF EUROPE
It’s a gamble, a gaming
purse tossed on the floor
and open for business.
Blue velvet and the ace
of spades, space available
in another place not here.
Riches by chance, bitches!
Advance token, pass go,
past those other monkeys.
Keys to the city withheld,
meld Igbo and Bantu pell-
mell into Africa. Scramble.