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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, February 8, 2016.
About this Poem 

“This poem began with an article I read about farming in America. The outcomes, the chance for success, to even gain a living from this work they’ve invested their lives in, is bleak. Still, some persist—sometimes love is like that.”
—Reginald Dwayne Betts

I’m Learning Nothing This Night

The magazine on my lap talks
about milk. Tells me that in America,
every farmer lost money on
every cow, every day of every month
of the year. Imagine that? To wake
up and know you’re digging yourself
deeper into a hole you can’t see
out of, even as your hands are wet
with what feeds you. That’s how this
thing is, holding on & losing a little each
moment. I’m whispering an invented
history to myself tonight—because
letting go is the art of living fully
in the world your body creates
when you sleep. Say a prayer for
the insomniacs. They hunger &
demand the impossible. Pray for
the farmers, hands deep in loam—
body’s weight believing what
the mind knows is ruin, they too
want the impossible, so accustomed
to the earth responding when they call.

Copyright © 2016 Reginald Dwayne Betts. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2016 Reginald Dwayne Betts. Used with permission of the author.

Reginald Dwayne Betts

Reginald Dwayne Betts

Reginald Dwayne Betts is the author of Bastards of the Reagan Era (Four Way Books, 2015) and Shahid Reads His Own Palm (Alice James Books, 2010), which won the 2010 Beatrice Hawley Award. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

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A woman tattoos Malik’s name above
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to destroy blacks. This is all a fancy way
to say that someone kirked out, emptied
five or six or seven shots into a still warm body.
No indictment follows Malik’s death,
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Prison is the sinner’s bouquet, house of shredded & torn
               Dear John letters, upended grave of names, moon
               Black kiss of a pistol’s flat side, time blueborn
& threaded into a curse, Lazarus of hustlers, the picayune
Spinning into beatdowns; breath of a thief

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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