I heard Jamaal May read about 10 years ago. A real treat, and here is a more recent poem of his I found. His book, Hum, is worth owning. I haven’t yet read his newer book, T
There are birds here
There are birds here,
so many birds here
is what I was trying to say
when they said those birds were metaphors
for what is trapped
and buildings. No.
The birds are here
to root around for bread
the girl’s hands tear
and toss like confetti. No,
I don’t mean the bread is torn like cotton,
I said confetti, and no
not the confetti
a tank can make of a building.
I mean the confetti
a boy can’t stop smiling about
and no his smile isn’t much
like a skeleton at all. And no
his neighborhood is not like a war zone.
I am trying to say
is as tattered and feathered
as anything else,
as shadow pierced by sun
and light parted
by shadow-dance as anything else,
but they won’t stop saying
how lovely the ruins,
how ruined the lovely
children must be in that birdless city.
In California it’s full spring. The colors have changed from white and pink to yellows and purple. The hens are laying, the garden growing full tilt. This poem by Jamaal May is a good spring into the season:
I Have This Way of Being
I have this, and this isn’t a mouth
full of the names of odd flowers
I’ve grown in secret.
I know none of these by name
but have this garden now,
and pastel somethings bloom
near the others and others.
I have this trowel, these overalls
this ridiculous hat now.
This isn’t a lung full of air.
Not a fist full of weeds that rise
yellow then white then windswept.
This is little more than a way
to kneel and fill gloves with sweat,
so that the trowel in my hand
will have something to push against,
rather, something to push
against that it knows will bend
and give and return as sprout
and petal and sepal and bloom.
I have been reading, Hum, Jamaal May’s intriguing book of poems, and finding what he does with language very inspiring. He’s a great performer, too, you can hear him recite on Youtube. I think this poem works best if you don’t try to make too much sense of it as it goes along; just take the images in as they come.
How to Disappear Completely
You are quarter ghost on your mother’s side.
Your heart is a flayed peach in a bone box.
Your hair comes away in clumps like cheap fabric wet.
A reflecting pool gathers around your altar
of plywood subflooring and split wooden slats.
You are a rag doll, prone, contort,
angle and arc. Rot. Here you are Continue reading “Jamaal May”