A Boy Called Peter

A.W.      name me mum passed on to me
before she passed out      drunk
on the kitchen floor
Alfred Walter Collier
Collier      not my career
name dropped on me by me da’
who dropped out of me life

And so it was      A.W. Collier
until I met the girl
what a girl      those legs

What’s your name      we
were strolling on the beach
They call you Alfie
No      you’re not an Alfred
not an Alfie      I see you as

she paused      Peter
we walked on holding hands
Peter      yeah

And so it was.

Child in a grown-up place

When I was a child,
when was I a child,
when did I stop being a child?
When-where, time-and-space blur together
endlessly so that I’m neither here nor there,
now nor then but all of them.

That grownup place haunts me still,
still child in the dark afraid to be found,
to be found out, afraid not to be found.
My book, my solitude, the quiet of the safe space
behind the brocade sofa draped in swaths of
sheets like ghosts consigned to the locked
room where no one is allowed,
muffling the angry voices saying unforgivable,
unforgettable, regrettable things.

I, the one hunkered down, little rabbit;
the other, drowning civility in the cadences
of hatred, disrespect, launched like bullets,
whining across the maw of the fox-hole.

What no-man’s land out there–the out there
and the in here, neither here nor there,
my safe book, my safe nook, the tall ceilings
that shut out the sky of the house echoing
the sounds bouncing off the walls of my child’s
heart, my child’s mind, still.

Still, I hear the coarse gratings. When
can I come out? Will I ever be able
to face the sun again, again play
in the rain, in the space of falling leaves,
leaves that turn into forts? Leave
this house full of wrath? My little space?
I’ve brought my pillow and my blanket,
my book to fly away into
the safety of someone else’s story.

for the Black Lady Singing in the Park

Lone heron perched
on a log in water just
too deep to stand in.

Black plastic sandals
strewn askew
on the concrete levee.

Large black woman
stands arms reaching
she sings to the sky:

This Land Is Your Land
and We Shall Overcome
Amazing Grace.

Too loud too strange
until the young white policemen
come to cart her away,

Making our park safe again
even with water just too deep
to stand in.

I wonder if they got her shoes.

Hunter in His Blind

Prays for a hit.

Dark cold bites, and thick fog
burns off the edge of night,
lifts to the bald scruffed buzzard
mounted on a cypress-stump.

Nerves taut, he turns
to a buck’s rush in the thicket.
Brittle crack cuts the dawn.
Disheartened, he rues
the buck’s quick escape.

Nothing in front—behind
bold scavenger’s shadow,
solitary owner of this new day,
reminds the sniper that the kill
costs more than a prayer.