Untitled Salvation and Other Poems

 
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Stewart Shaw

Art by Victor Ehikhamenor

 
 

Untitled Salvation

One day I went looking for God or
enlightenment or whatever
He said prayer could be found in his pants
His hands threaded through my kinks like a benediction
One day I was lost and thought I had found Heaven

He said prayer could be found in his pants
No hallelujah choruses, no salvation there
One day just me lost and thinking I had found Heaven
Black boys be offering up what is not theirs to bestow, things they do not own

No hallelujah choruses, no salvation there was no there there
A crooked neck, a hollowed-out tongue to be felled under the weight of sanctity
Black boys too slick and wiry be offering up what is not theirs to bestow, things they do not own
I once wished for a ululating tongue to praise his name

My crooked neck, hollowed out tongue wait on sanctity
His hands threading through my kinks like a benediction
I bear witness to a ululating tongue to praise his name
One day I went looking for God or
Enlightenment or

His hands lining my head with braids plaited with benedictions
His hands speaking in tongues, riddles
One day I went looking for God or
Enlightenment or something sweeter
The taste of bread and wine on the tongue bitter.

 
 

for Freddie Gray
1989–2015

It is in the fields where we will find him

Covered like covered night covered like covered
Dreams, tarred and feathered like pigeons
To tired to fly over blacktop
Over abandoned leaking rooftops

Blown and blowing like laughter that rarely
Reach sky and sun like wind across alley and
Schoolground emptied of learning
It is in the fields where we will
Find sphinx, oracle griot
town-crier, priest or undertaker
saying his name, saying his name, saying her
name, saying his name over and again

Hallelujah. Hallelujah on bended knee
Hallelujah on covered vessels of bone and blood
Hallelujah Christ is dead and alive
Over in the field on Poplar Grove
Over on North Ave

It is in the fields where we will find
Covered bones of salvation
Tarnished and bronzed
Like Remy, like Hennesy

It is in blacktop gardens
Tear-stained drenched and watered
Where the dead is put to rest- grieving
Mothers and fathers lament
Ululate, beseech
Make promises into hollowed hands
Kiss ground their child
Sprouted from- returned to

It is here
In the weeds, the glass-filled dirt,
The graffitied alleyways
Among litter and social neglect
you will find the ones others call JUST-
Just a drug dealer, just a hood
Rat, just a thug, just
another
Black menace.

Here you will find kids singing
Playing ring around the rosie.

 
 

UNMUTE THE BODY

They’ll be no miracles here, only
The congress of two bodies, the swelling nasturtium and calla lily, lupine and blazing star.

Hothouse flowers
blooms upon entering.

If I say the wrong thing
You will say invert the tongue, speak no evils.

Unmute the body
Become Sunday temple giving out the grace of gods.

They all end up here, someone washing
Their feet, another twisting their hair into snail shell likeness.

To the masses with bowed Sunday heads
They’ll be no miracles
Just the congress of twisted feet, flowering bodies
Swelling.

 
 

To my white benefactor

A haiku
for GEORGE FLOYD*




My neck a prie-dieu
Kneel and pray to your” just” God
Ask for forgiveness

 
 

Tomorrow I will still be...

I can quote Katharine Hepburn. Lines from her oldest movies fall from my lips -
The tiger lilies. Are in bloom again. I hand out flowers to the pretty ones. Squeeze words. Pinch pennies as barter for. My place in. Line. In front of the succulent boy. I want. To suckle on. Suck on. Hold to my chest like. 1. A baby. 2. A nasty lover. 3. My daddy that. I never knew. In the case of 3. It is not. Sexual. But a desire to go back. To the start. To see God. Know what it was like. In the beginning. Of time. My time. Time for lost gay black boys.

I say it. Again. I am gay. It is all about convincing. Myself. That I matter. Mean something. Outside of the throat of the last. Trick. That moaned. Not my name. That he did not. Know. But a silent moan. That wished. Him away. On to his next and. His next. And. My self-doubt. Is a rollercoaster. A ride. Half-way. But never quite to. Heaven. And I wonder. Who lives there. Who kisses there. Are there any. Kisses. There. Or just prayers. For lost blk gay. Boys. Like. Me.

Tomorrow. I will. Still be gay. Will wash him. Off. Wash. The stench. Of my own. Black tears. Away. Tomorrow and it’s. Pernicious sun. Comes too soon. Comes to make me beg. For my own forgiveness. For believing. That loneliness is not also. Next to godliness. That my tears. Aren’t also holy. Waters. I cry enough. To fill. The font. Tomorrow. I will kiss. That boy again. Walk to the corner store. For new condoms. Afraid of his. Holy seed. But begging. Proselytizing. Nonetheless.

 

Spring / Summer 2024



Stewart Shaw

Stewart Shaw is a librarian, poet, writer, and author of the chapbook The House of Men. His poems have been published in Taint Taint Taint, African American Review, Imagoes: a Queer Anthology, Split This Rock- poems of resistance, Serendipity, and others, as well as having short stories in Mighty Real: An Anthology of African American Same Gender Loving Writing and African Voices. He is a Pushcart-nominated poet and a Cave Canem poetry fellow.



Victor Ehikhamenor

Victor Ehikhamenor is a Nigerian American artist and writer known for vibrant works that engage African cultural heritage and the postcolonial politics of his native Nigeria. Ehikhamenor received his BA in English from Ambrose Alli University, and his MFA in fiction from University of Maryland. He was a National Artist in Residence at the Neon Museum, Las Vegas (2020), and a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Fellow (2016); he has received awards and fellowships from organizations that include Civitella Ranieri Foundation, Nirox Foundation, and the Norman Mailer Center. Ehikhamenor’s work has been shown internationally and was part of the Nigerian Pavilion of the 57th Venice Biennale (2017), the 5th Mediations Biennale, Poznan (2016) the 12th Dak’art Biennale (2016), and Biennale Jogja XIII (2015). He lives between Lagos and the United States.



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