When the Famous Black Poet speaks,
I understand
that his is the same unnervingly slow
rambling method of getting from A to B
that I hated in my father,
my father who always told me
don't shuffle.
The Famous Black Poet is
speaking of the dark river in the mind
that runs thick with the heroes of color,
Jackie R., Bessie, Billie, Mr. Paige, anyone
who knew how to sing or when to run.
I think of my grandmother, said
to have dropped dead from the evil eye,
of my lesbian aunt who saw cancer and
a generally difficult future headed her way
in the still water
of her brother's commode.
I think of voodoo in the bottoms of soup-cans,
and I want to tell the poet that the blues
is not my name, that Alabama
is something I cannot use
in my business.
He is so like my father,
I don't ask the Famous Black Poet,
afterwards,
to remove his shoes,
knowing the inexplicable black
and pink I will find there, a cut
gone wrong in five places.
I don't ask him to remove
his pants, since that too
is known, what has never known
a blade, all the spaces between,
where we differ .  .  .
I have spent years tugging
between my legs,
and proved nothing, really.
I wake to the sheets I kicked aside,
and examine where they've failed to mend
their own creases, resembling some silken
obstruction, something pulled
from my father's chest, a bad heart,
a lung,
the lung of the Famous Black Poet
saying nothing I want to understand.
 
From In the Blood by Carl Phillips, published by Northeastern University Press. © 1992 by Carl Phillips. Reprinted with the permission of Northeastern University Press. All rights reserved.

Poems by This Author

And It Begins Like This by Carl Phillips
At Bay by Carl Phillips
Coral-bells purpled the fallen sycamore leaves, dead, the dead
Aubade: Some Peaches, After Storm by Carl Phillips
So that each / is its own, now--each has fallen, blond stillness.
Civilization by Carl Phillips
There's an art
Cloud Country by Carl Phillips
If a Wilderness by Carl Phillips
Then spring came
Leda, After the Swan by Carl Phillips
Perhaps, / in the exaggerated grace
Porcelain by Carl Phillips
As when a long forgetfulness lifts suddenly, and what
Surrounded as we are, unlit, unshadowed by Carl Phillips
Squalor of leaves


Further Reading

Poems about Ancestors
Ancestors
by Cesare Pavese
Arabic
by Naomi Shihab Nye
At the Public Market Museum: Charleston, South Carolina
by Jane Kenyon
Deer Dancer
by Joy Harjo
How I Got That Name
by Marilyn Chin
How Palestinians Keep Warm
by Naomi Shihab Nye
Ladders
by Elizabeth Alexander
Many Asked Me Not to Forget Them
by Naomi Shihab Nye
Nunaqtigiit
(people related through common possession of territory)

by Joan Kane
On the Gallows Once
by Kofi Awoonor
On this Very Street in Belgrade
by Charles Simic
Post-Dissertation-Intervention (i.)
by Ronaldo Wilson
Prayer for My Unborn Niece or Nephew
by Ross Gay
Snow
by Naomi Shihab Nye
Teach me I am forgotten by the dead
by Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart
by Jack Gilbert
The Multitude
by Ellen Hinsey
What I Am
by Terrance Hayes
Poems About Fathers
'The child is father to the man.'
by Gerard Manley Hopkins
The Last 4 Things [That hard thread]
by Kate Greenstreet
A Boy and His Dad
by Edgar Guest
A Situation for Mrs. Biswas
by Prageeta Sharma
A Story
by Philip Levine
A Story
by Li-Young Lee
American Primitive
by William Jay Smith
Another Country
by Ryan Teitman
Auld Lang Syne
by Jennifer L. Knox
Blood
by Naomi Shihab Nye
Confessions: My Father, Hummingbirds, and Frantz Fanon
by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Daddy
by Sylvia Plath
Descriptions of Heaven and Hell
by Mark Jarman
Do not go gentle into that good night
by Dylan Thomas
Father
by Edgar Guest
Father Outside
by Nick Flynn
Father's Day Cards
from The Princess [Sweet and low, sweet and low]
by Lord Alfred Tennyson
Grief Calls Us to the Things of This World
by Sherman Alexie
Her Father
by Thomas Hardy
How to Be a Lawyer
by Jordan Davis
Inventing Father In Las Vegas
by Lynn Emanuel
Lay Back the Darkness
by Edward Hirsch
Like Him
by Aaron Smith
Man of the Year
by Robin Becker
Meeting with My Father in the Orchard
by Homero Aridjis
My Father
by Scott Hightower
my father moved through dooms of love
by E. E. Cummings
My Father on His Shield
by Walt McDonald
My Father Remembers Blue Zebras
by Judy Halebsky
My Father's Hat
by Mark Irwin
My Father's Leaving
by Ira Sadoff
My Papa's Waltz
by Theodore Roethke
Only a Dad
by Edgar Guest
Parents
by William Meredith
Poems about Fathers
Renewal [Excerpt]
by Chris Abani
Separation is the necessary condition for light.
by Brian Teare
Shaving Your Father's Face
by Michael Dickman
Tended Strength: Gifts of Poetry for Fathers
The Ferryer
by Sharon Olds
The Idea of Ancestry
by Etheridge Knight
The Idiot
by Charles Reznikoff
The Portrait
by Stanley Kunitz
The Trouble Ball [excerpt]
by Martín Espada
Those Winter Sundays
by Robert Hayden
To Her Father with Some Verses
by Anne Bradstreet
Toad
by Diane Seuss
Whose Mouth Do I Speak With
by Suzanne Rancourt
With Kit, Age 7, at the Beach
by William Stafford
Working Late
by Louis Simpson
Yesterday
by W. S. Merwin