Three Poets

{Dwayne Betts}

My last poetry post, which by the magic of blogging appears after my last post. I just couldn't go without a few more poems. You folks take care. Check out these three young brothers: John Murillo, Randall Horton and Marcus Jackson coming at the word in a different way.

INVOKING MARVIN AT MIDNIGHT (First appeared in the Beltway Poetry Quarterly)
                by John Murillo

        Picture the preacher's son   secular   sanctified
spotlight and nightsweat     bluesmoke and silkthroat
        eyes closed   head tossed   voice naked
knees trembling      Trouble Man      moaning wholly
        holy  Love   have mercy   Love have
     mercy       holler Marvin  holler 

Dreamed of you this morning
        then came the dawn and
I thought if you were here with me...

        Picture the poet   nightsweat and lamplight
fingers throbbing    threadbare tongue    ghost mounted
        errant son    Picture the woman
known before      comes back      spoken for   
        See the poet's barren hands    blood before words
this bard without throat    a woman to bring back
        and no song to sing     no song to sing
help me holler  Marvin    help me  help her  remember

Dreamed of you this morning
        then came the dawn and
I thought if you were here with me...

        What is it    Marvin    makes a man
need so strong      what he ain't suppose to have
        want so bad       what he ain't suppose to want
what is it     Marvin    makes men like us    holler
        and moan    holler and moan    why a blues
so mean     she gotta come back twice

Dreamed of you this morning
        then came the dawn and
I thought if you were here with me...


(Song Lyrics from Soon I'll Be Loving You Again, by Marvin Gaye)


by Marcus JacksonFirst appeared in The New YOrker, JULY 21, 2008

She counted her money

before we went in,

avenue beside us anxious

with Friday-evening traffic.

Both fourteen, we shared a Newport,

its manila butt salty to our lips.

Inside, from a huge book

of designs and letter styles,

she chose to get "MARY"

in a black, Old English script

on the back of her neck.

The guy who ran the shop

leaned over her for forty minutes

with a needled gun

that buzzed loud

as if trying to get free.

He took her twenty-five dollars

then another ten

for being under age.

Back outside, the sun

dipped behind rooftops,

about to hand the sky over to night.

Lifting her hazel hair,

she asked me to rub

some A&D ointment

on her new tattoo;

my finger glistened in salve

as I reached for her swollen name.

minor characters in somebody else's

melodrama (first appeared in Black Quarterly

by Randall Horton 

Hugged against red brick walls,

five o'clock shadowed men

  whose brims break

over one eye socket, lean--

knees bent like boomerangs,

whisper incoherently

how heroin swimming through their veins

is gooder than a muthafucka,

 words slow dancing each other

to a slur, back pockets dragging

a half-pint of Odessa, the seal popped

since evening rush hour.

On any corner from N to U,

a fast walk and frantic stare

followed by raised index finger

brings a deliberate head nod--

the lingua franca of Ninth Street.

Car trunks unfasten deep

in silk dresses and fresh leather coats.

Inside the after hours joint

down from Birdland,

the strike-straight crack of a cue ball

breaks over Wynton Marsalis' horn.

Women are snake charmed

by wanna be hustlers

who sport gators and swift speech,

promise salvation when nothing

is guaranteed except a dope habit

and these streets, nothing but ghetto life

  strung out 24/7-- like a religion.