the muse apprentice guild
--expanding the canon into the 21st century




THREE WORKS
BY ROMUS SIMPSON

LUNCH HOUR

i am walking through downtown
in a coolness laid on me like an
affirmation from a cooler brotha
like the beginning rhythms of a carnival
tuning its colors for the merry crowds
or a shout from a friend across the busy avenue
i am kind today
definite as the languid afternoon & the sudden yelping sounds
i send a kind word to anyone at all
who seems to be oblivious to hunger
& smiles when they look my way
i am walking in beautiful rhythm
the city jumping all at once
birds sifting air into sound
an elastic ration of them pronounced against the buildings
carrying the hour in my cheek
i conduct the action
make a manhole cover toll
i stencil person to shadow
kiss every woman i meet
against the sunlight nothing iz out of place
no event not illustrated somewhere in my swinging

in the doorway
of the YMCA where 3 poor children sit singing
a brotha notices me
i nod
he is 40 something
fresh from war & tenements
i see heroin even though that may be assuming to much
amazing , he is as tall as the doorway
he shapes like pine imported from my mother's memory
who's alabama son is he?
& does he call home to hear the slow southern voices push
the heavy night back into the atlantic & speak to the child in him
then cry out against blue addiction & the tumult of the boisterous city?
he nods
the day moves ahead like a marching band
riotous & strangely elegant & in full volume

children!
oh children!
god is here
a beautiful frenzied calamity of them falls onto
the sidewalk like cascading peach cans
they are in ecstasy & fascinated with their movement
they think they will run all their lives
the child in me runs with them
they whirl in the doors & fly to meet the world
will they remember me watching them begin to live?

then women
two of them with bags of things
their hair in scarves
one knuckles at her bra line & misses my smile
the other catches my greeting
& puts it away in her bag
i have made a friend

four brothas
in a car careen the curb
sending the old cadillac silly
they are young i am sure
immortal unfettered & unasked
their summer is still rising in slow waves
they speed off
i hear laughter & profanity
the calico cadilac whines
they use no turn signals
are arbitrary & tight as hip talk
they are legend in these summer streets

then men
homeless & loud
arguing about something
one's hand is out
asking
the other refusing compliance
he looks like my uncle
the one who stays away
whose habits haunt him
whose eyes never have met mine
something in the way stands against the wall
an easiness that could hand children candy
but never does

a market!
a dollar market!
a festival of little extraordinary things
thieves practice here
one cannot steal in a dollar market
they can only pilfer & pinch

then books!
oh, a book store!
cathedral book store
a man is reading something
it is not bell hooks or karenga
nor is it angelou, brooks, shange or sanchez
he looks up at me
his face never changes
the clocks on the wall click out silence
time is short
the hour here a metaphor yet to be finished

i run for the train
the blue line chimes in
we populate the carriage with smiles
floating on those tracks
we pull from the station across the intersection
the windows move down the avenue
we forget the run & ranting
the blueline is leaving downtown
& i am one of the many faces you have seen today
& will never remember

================

HE WAZ VERY VERY UPSET

he waz very very upset
lionlike & hungry
a redwood threatening to fall
he moved against everything
waz hot & indifferent
a rogue planet out of its ellipse
spinning wanting to knock the universe down
indignant az a river quelled
then hurling houses & cars in the provincial lowlands
hiz intent waz huge
ambitious az a ration of hurricanes
all horrible weather & hell
we tried to calm hiz body
but it took a world to stop him
he waz a mississippi now
lawless & arrogant & seeking corpses
hiz anger waz the heaviest humidity
it smothered speech & reason
he had broken instinct
& lost sight of the interim choices

he saw the knife
it made itself pretty
shone starbright among the blunt things
something about it boasted
stating what it could kill
romanced him
told him of deathwork & glory
of rising from the starlit swamp of midnight in stealth
& becoming vague az moondust
told him of exorcising the heat consuming hiz flesh
cutting to bone then scraping there
feeling the core of that man splinter
told him of letting breath go with each strike
then falling back into hiz senses
the knife offered him sweet delirium
offered relief & revenge & rhetoric
it lured him to handle it slow
& kiss its sharp luminescent watery edge

i begged him
said
“man, he’ll get hiz
catch him someday when atrocities
& the calling voices that chant in madness
no longer tour the night gathering corpses”

i said
“move into light brotha
with the country seeking to kill u
with the city denying u work
every billboard defaming u
u brotha
from a lifetime of disappearing brothas
from the tumult of blue addiction
from the indecipherable messages of stuttering illiteracy
move into light
please
blackboy with huge hands
wild in the moonlight
walking strong onthe pleading faces”

he ran out the door
knife in hand
the howling night watching him go
going to get whoever hurt him
crying with fever

i called
“please
u have beenowned & sold
replanted inmetal gardens
then left torust
u were oncea frican and exotic
then when modern art was discovered to be a farce
they looked to tear u down”

i follwed him
the cadence of his breath a locomotive
my skin waz screaming
i said
“brotha
i know what it iz
the cultural loneliness
to be the antithesis of beauty
to feign oblivion to scars
to be the formal joke of the city
to be alien& advertised az such
brotha
each step tonight shrinks possibility
only deeper night iz ahead
laughing profane death standing
shirtless in the broad avenues”

i tried to use anything to turn him
people were stopping
watching him rant & run
mothers in shock remembering losing sons
men suddenly thrust back to injury
whole skies of infinite thunder rising & coming closer
minutes working down hiz life like acid
but he waz fast looking for that man
it waz war distilled into lava
it waz a chant carmeling anger into heat
hiz muscles & mouth were taut
nothing open about him now

he turned & looked
he didn’t see me
hiz face gone
eyes abandoned
all instinct
swinging & oblivious
a series of tied screams
bigger now than anything real

i said
“before u go into that place
wherever he is on what corner or shadow
before u call hiz name from the living
& hover there
cells spinning
the sky frenzied around u
before that deep silence drifts in the from the wharf
& dampens darkness & mutes the stars
consider next year or your children
think think think think think think think
brotha u cannot be such heady turbulence
don’t be animal in sight of the available rhetoric
come home & we’ll talk
we’ll curse him together
we’ll hit the walls
then someday soon in the streets where he
languishes waiting on hiz death
we’ll carry the day my friend
we’ll call him a punk assed mother fucker
& move on”

================

THE JUPITER MOONS
(for vanessa)

the jupiter moons
like her kisses
hover then fly across the red sky
calypso moons azure & on fire
then they are luminous falling roses touching arizona red
fuming sunflowers bent dreaming over the green world
others are buoyant white like spring light
then in the beautiful wilderness
where gaunt poetsroam & write of god & love
her tongue brands u
metaphors & bursts yellow
trumpets from a longing of alley flowers
volcanoes blind from her mouth
finds u cool & naked in the placid river evening
day falling off the eastern shoulder of the shirtless world
an archipelago of planets on fire in the infinite indigo universe

each small hungry candlelit sunday evening
floating & breathing together
laughing beneath each other’s tongues
half awake in the slow currents off madagascar
u love her
dream her here each evening
wear white linen in a muslim pauper’s tribute
sleep in the wandering countryside of her hair & memory
u come to her from that part of the world
grinning stranger in a tall field of waving grass
mastering this intimate language
her name
tempered in sighs & glitter
iz an aspirate stutter
u chant it u sing it let it curry u at the marrow
vines a perfumed darkness all over the universe
decorates the body in hieroglyphs
iz fruit from wet woman fingers

she lays on you
eyes closed
riding your breath in the gold of the river evening
wishing into your ear
finger orbiting your jupiter mouth
a ritual of wet moons touch your eyelids

in every lifetime
every lonely reincarnation
it waz late
it waz always late
too much city blooming every night
stars vied to see & guide her home
night came gregarious with constellations
swallowing a thunder of small lights
called her by her birth name
so suddenly everywhere
tall tibetan nightstriding across the himalayas crying
so amazingly mature marbled night everywhere

she must go she must go she must go
each clock looking into space pulses insistently
she must go
tells u while the strong shadows rise
her body begs u to keep her
your mouth iz a darkness she can hide in
but irony is the only thing god assures earth’s citizens
that women will leave u angled at the moon
alchemy & disappearances
the eazy season of her language
plants lilacs & a prayer in your beard
she makes u so tall & reverent & beautiful
heals u before u ever hurt
each literate sinew sings

leaving the house
into the god face night sky
u march slowly together in
a forest of dreaming stars
crooking your arms around her like
a san louis obispo oak claiming the moon
your hands on her belly & breasts
out into the incipient night
venus sitting still inches off the mauve horizon
an aggregate stars are ready

she iz in her car
buttoning her shirt
u crouch at her door
saying man things from your chest
saying anything at all to keep her
u want to command her stay here now woman
stay here now u hear me u hear me?
but she came to u free & chose to stay
lay beside u becuz it iz good not to be alone
created an ethic & let u listen
your mouth wants to touch her
her lips her cheeks her forehead
all that almond & brown sugar
the streets clears & darkens
the city palms are tall negros with their backs turned to u
traffic lights dream cuban carnivals
they are all green dark dreaming fields of billowing sugarcane
the signal iz clear
u want to say it in spanish
but u know no spanish
so u kiss her then kiss her again
then one last kiss becuz god iz here