Yusef Komunyakaa's Thorn Merchant Poems. There are couple more than this--I think a son and a daughter poem, which are also lovely. Here is The Thorn Merchant, The Thorn Merchant's Wife and The Thorn Merchant's Mistress. Komunyakaa is, well, a bad ass. This is my favorite book from him. But almost all of his stuff is just killer. We'll talk in the afternoon.

UPDATE: Comments open guys. I have one thing to say:

Ready to auction off his hands

to the highest bidder,

he knows how death waits

in us like a light switch.



The Thorn Merchant

There are teeth marks

on everything he loves.

When he enters the long room

more solemn than a threadbare Joseph coat,

the Minister of Hard Knocks & Golden Keys

begins to shuffle his feet.

The ink on contracts disappears.

Another stool pigeon leans

over a wrought-iron balcony.

Blood money's at work.

While men in black wetsuits

drag Blue Lake, his hands dally

at the hem of his daughter's skirt.


In the brain's shooting gallery

he goes down real slow.

His heart suspended in a mirror,

shadow of a crow over a lake.

With his fingers around his throat

he moans like a statue

of straw on a hillside.

Ready to auction off his hands

to the highest bidder,

he knows how death waits

in us like a light switch.


The Thorn Merchant's Wife

She meditates on how rocks rise
in Bluebird Canyon, how hills
tremble as she makes love
to herself, how memories drift
& nod like belladonna
kissing the ground.

She remembers the first time, there
in his flashy two-tone Buick.
That night she was a big smile
in the moon's brokendown alley.
When she became the Madonna of Closed Eyes
nightmares bandaged each other
with old alibis & surgical gauze,
that red dress he fell for
turned to ghost cloth
in some bagwoman's wardrobe.

She thinks about the gardener's son.
But those black-haired hours only lasted
till the shake dancer's daughter
got into his blood & he grew sober --
before solitaire began to steal
her nights, stringing an opus
of worry beads, before Morphine
leaned into the gold frame.



The Thorn Merchant's Mistress

I was on my high
horse then. I
wore red with ease

& I knew how
to walk. There
were men undressing me

everywhere I went,
& women wishing
themselves in my place,

a swan unfractured
by August. I was still
a girl. If they

wanted culture,
I said Vivaldi
& Plato's Cave.

If they wanted
the streets, I said
Fuck you.

I knew how
to plead, Wait, Wait,
till I caught the eye

of some deus
ex machina.
I was in a deep dance

pulling the hidden
strings of nude
shadows. But when

his car drove by
my heart caught
like a fat moth

in spider web. Goddamn!
I didn't know
how to say No.

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