by Justin Phillip Reed
ft. Timothy Donnelly
Morning dusted blush across the yawn of a visible mile
through which a prison break of ravens cropped
an ellipsis ending in cats’ glares and lamplight choked
slowly under shadows of the houses that we crept
toward on our toes, disquieting the quarry of detritus.
We were not a fog but a horripilation even burs pricked
the air’s wet neck to leech free of abstraction. The ravens
alit on branches, formed ash-headed flowers, and recapped
with the rattling industry of polyps in a lung what else
but how flesh fell from us. Our blood had tricked a corrupt
romance into the landscape. Leaves the hue of new pennies
when dead had found the living with their faces parked
in windows—or from porches—squinting at the riches.
Surely killing everything had felt for them like having
survived it. The naivety of their venatic logic kept the crypt
full of rumors about the woods while the woods brimmed
full of bullet casings and a harbor’s worth of rope cut
the common length of three stags, head to hind.
It appeared that their invoking our cadavers partook
of a kind of patriotism. Our appearances kept them up.
We were not a whisper. We spared only the decrepit
who could not be spared the past and what had come
after we savaged the circuitry of veins: the carpet
of scalps we trod back into the dwindling singularities
of trunks; sun’s red tinge sucked earthward; birds, perked
out of witness, dispersing—sudden, in every direction—
moonstruck as if the night itself lurched into salivating.
Justin Phillip Reed is the author of A History of Flamboyance (YesYes Books, 2016). His first collection of poetry, Indecency, is forthcoming from Coffee House Press in 2018. His work is forthcoming in African American Review, The Iowa Review, and Best American Essays. He lives in Saint Louis and tweets from @justafknminute.