Poet, Writer, and Arts Educator, Phillip Shabazz is the author of three poetry collections, Freestyle and Visitation, and XYZoom, and Flames in the Fire. He is also the author of a novel in verse, When the Grass Was Blue. His forthcoming collection of poetry is titled: Moonflower.
His poetry has been included in the anthologies, Literary Trails of the North Carolina Piedmont: A Guidebook, and Home Is Where: African-American Poetry from the Carolinas. Some of the journals his poems have appeared
include Across The Margin, The American Voice, Obsidian, and The Louisville Review.
I make sure to pocket the railroad ticket.
And unlike me, a sunless phantom seen from a window
drags the autumn weight of loss.
Rain at nightfall drowses against the air
of a thousand country miles, countless thorns
and carvings in tree trunks. Drifting cotton dust
sticks to the floor of my tongue as though
my life could only be measured in the field.
No doubt this lightning is a way station.
Allow me to stomach the hours. There are points
from stars to pull through rain.
Those blazing spears have challenged my faith.
By chance I see no blunder when each black word slips
off the page of a wanted poster as I flee, or
the underground wind hardens the rock
salt face of a headhunter. And what of the wet
shoe hanging off a foot? A blister between the toes?
That sunless phantom falls apart as if I rise
to use the firearm. Break beyond shadows like a spell.
A housefly on my lip itches as rain composes a blue
song running over my bones. Bullets spill. Hounds drown.
This flight can cut air in the windpipe of my pursuer.
Miles away I hold the ticket, a green ribbon. The railroad
a human body disappears into the ceasefire of thunder.
Miles away the Big Dipper shines by its own rain.
Miles away the crossed boundaries miss me most
when I dry my eyes.
An evening anchored in summer fills the magnolia
of stars over Ohio and pumpkin gourd close enough
to echo the old spirituals. Elsewhere a honkytonk
piano night spots the Ragtime. In peace, the sky softens
into moonlight on the dirt floor. But since Dunbar
has sojourned to sing of the mask his face hides behind,
dazed, like a sharecropper, we stare through
the holes in a cotton bale. Hear his song not as song,
only a field holler. Watermelons weep. Forest water
steam rolls out of the mouths on this planet more
a bruised seed than an apple. A few years now, this post-
reconstruction ails us. Bone bloats the body. Boots buckle
on a fractured porch. For the hieroglyphics sweat
grey arms, legs short of legs, is the tale
we banjo and dance around the garden pond.
Take time by the hand to lose all contact
with melancholia. Survive the acres and mules
we see for the last time. See the moon at its mute peak
the silent light in which we pray.
Your door stands true to the spin of blue
sketches in morning mist. When I knock
distance does not dirty the windows.
Sluggish, the windblown drapes are not bothered
by airships glazing our skin a second sky.
Rose lamps and hand-blown glass
corner a thousand fires of a husband’s heart.
In the flame, unchained elephants keep watch.
I could call them a mob of bruises. Except, I find solitude.
You have already seen the silence, wet whispers.
We walk across the world to two chairs.
Sometimes rain leads us to the table.
Another time the sea dives on our feet
and your moonflower serenades the sunset.