poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

Shahid Reads His Own Palm

Reginald Dwayne Betts
I come from the cracked hands of men who used
           the smoldering ends of blunts to blow shotguns,

men who arranged their lives around the mystery
           of the moon breaking a street corner in half.

I come from "Swann Road" written in a child's
           slanted block letters across a playground fence,

the orange globe with black stripes in Bishop's left
           hand, untethered and rolling to the sideline,

a crowd openmouthed, waiting to see the end
           of the sweetest crossover in a Virginia state pen.

I come from Friday night's humid and musty air,
           Junk Yard Band cranking in a stolen Bonneville,

a tilted bottle of Wild Irish Rose against my lips
           and King Hedley's secret written in the lines of my palm.

I come from beneath a cloud of white smoke, a lit pipe
           and the way glass heats rocks into a piece of heaven,

from the weight of nothing in my palm,
           a bullet in an unfired snub-nosed revolver.

And every day the small muscles in my finger threaten to pull
           a trigger, slight and curved like my woman's eyelashes.

From Shahid Reads His Own Palm by Reginald Dwayne Betts. Copyright © 2010 by Reginald Dwayne Betts. Used by permission of Alice James Books.

From Shahid Reads His Own Palm by Reginald Dwayne Betts. Copyright © 2010 by Reginald Dwayne Betts. Used by permission of Alice James Books.

Reginald Dwayne Betts