Friday, January 9, 2015

Poem of the Week: Venus Thrash


Gunpowder Lives

          -- for Tim, Kenneth and their mothers

Ever since my next-door neighbor stopped
in front of the stoop, unfolded The Post
to her son's smiling face, I've been obsessed
with the Obits page.  Here, she says,

handing me the paper, pointing to her son,
Kenneth, shot down like a damn dog
two years ago that day. No words soothe
in the presence of her dead son.

Nadine & Mary offer shoulders, a well-smoked
blunt, double shot of Christian Brothers brandy.
She takes a hit, declines the booze, drags her dead
son's damp face up a desolate flight of stairs.

Nadine & Mary beg her not to go up to that sad, 
empty-ass apartment. She ascends & disappears
behind a wall of cinderblocks. Nadine whispers, 
It's time to let him go a little. Yeah, Mary nods,

blowing smoke past my eyes. I say nothing
of my own grief for my dead friend, Tim,
his last photo lying on the back seat of my car,
his sunken eyes asking questions no one ever

answered. I toss heartbreak aside
like the funeral program that's been riding
around with me since Tim died, past Ron's Unisex
Barbershop where I got my first Philly high-top

fade & Tim got his coif retouched & curled,
past Carnegie Library where we both cruised
the men. Between relic rides through the streets
of Washington, a hit on the blunt, a shot of brandy,

snapshot images of Tim & Kenneth strobe
my mind like contractions three minutes apart.
Born on nights celebrated in violence, firecrackers
in their mother's wombs--gunpowder lives

lasting 33 & 18 years--until they lit up the sky
like making risky love & callous gunshot
in the night. I read the Obits as front-page
news, scan the photos of well-trimmed goatees

on boyish faces, examine headstone years
etched in ink, sum up their lives as a lack
of longevity enshrouded in the morning 

Used with permission.
From The Fateful Apple (Hawkins Publishing Group, 2014).


Venus Thrash was a finalist in the 2012 Jean Feldman and 2009 Arktoi Books Poetry Prizes. Her debut collection of poetry, The Fateful Apple (Hawkins Publishing Group), was published in March 2014. Her poetry is published in The Beloit Poetry Journal, Split This Rock, Beltway Quarterly, Torch, Gargoyle, November 3rd Club, and the Arkansas Review. She has been a featured reader at Split This Rock Poetry Conference, the Studio Museum in Harlem, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Virginia Festival of the Book, and The Library of Congress. She teaches creative writing at Trinity Washington University, and is the mom to seven year old son, Daniel. She is completing The Soul of a Man, a short story collection, and a second poetry manuscript, Misanthrope.


Please feel free to share Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this post, including this request. Thanks! If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive.  

If you plan to submit to our Virtual Open Mic: Poems that Resist Police Brutality and Demand Racial Justice the mic is still hot. Thank you who have, and who yet will share this witness with us. We'll close the call at midnight on January 21, and will deliver all the open mic poems to the Department of Justice on January 23, 2015.

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