poem index

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

About this Poem 

"'Black Laws' is in conversation with so many things at once: Paul Laurence Dunbar and his dialect poems, the folk music group the Carolina Chocolate Drops, the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Jonathan Ferrell, lynching, John Berryman, elegy, and, most of all, the easily eradicable nature of black folks' lives in America. Every day I wonder if I'm next—the next Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin, or Jonathan Ferrell. I wonder who will sing for me when I'm gone."
—Roger Reeves

Black Laws

Fuss, fight, and cutting the huckley-buck—Dear Malindy, 
Underground, must I always return to the country of the dead,

To the coons catting about in the trees, the North Carolina pines 
Chattering about sweetening bodies in their green whirring?

Do these letters predict my death—some sound of a twig 
Breaking then a constant drowning—a butter bean drying

Beneath my nails? Casket, rascal, and corn bread cooling board. 
Dear Malindy, when the muskrats fight in the swamp I knows

It’s you causing my skull to rattle. You predicted my death 
With my own baby teeth and a rancid moon beneath our legs.

No girl, my arm still here. The antlers on the mantle yet quiet. 
All the ocean’s water without me and yet in me. Never mind,

Malindy. They already shot the black boy on the road for dying 
Without their permission. Yes, gal, I put on my nice suit. And wait.

Copyright © 2013 by Roger Reeves. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on November 11, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Copyright © 2013 by Roger Reeves. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on November 11, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Roger Reeves

Roger Reeves

Roger Reeves's first book, King Me, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2013 and was awarded the 2014 Larry Levis Reading Prize and a John C. Zacharis First Book Award.

by this poet

poem

I will begin with braces
strung across a man’s teeth
as a downed kite might
string itself across four lanes
of a seven-lane highway
and bid a barefooted child
to wade into evening traffic
and slip. I will not focus
on the wasp at the window,
the cat’s white hair

poem
                It turns out however that I was deeply
Mistaken about the end of the world
        	The body in flames will not be the body
In flames but just a house fire ignored
        	The black sails of that solitary burning
Boat rubbing along the legs of lovers
        	Flung into a Roman sky by a carousel
2
poem

The funeral past and also I loved him.
And also I, him and so loved past him.
And so all funeral the past ran animal
Up to our eyes, and so, lo, I loved
Any which him, the I-him, the scandal-
Animal of him hanging his newborn
Twenty years past newborn out of a moving car,
The