At my end of the car doors shush
and swallow an echo from dark calamity.
A boy anointed: he is oil & water spilling through, out
of character and hawking arrangements of hard
candies and Michael Jackson’s diaper:
Between the velveteen clay along the river
bottom above and the mantle of gneiss rock we
rail upon we find the underworld’s black market,
and as our earthenwork vivarium flutes the stone
a strollered infant folds one hand like a plant that’s
caught a fly and raises it in witness or is he bidding
(while around him some sleep
jerk, some seaweed, someone scary as a mannequin
in pain) on the diaper? I am projecting
like an open sneeze my need for humanistic
magic, pinched bits of cigarette filter at my
neighbor’s feet like chicken feathers, a popcorn
offering here, goldfish in a ziplocked bag there.
The messenger holds the diaper to his neck
like a noose. The day is warm. Look ye Brother
of Sorrows says I, handing him a dollar, truly
you are a man of the cloth.
Gregory Pardlo is the author of Digest (Four Way Books, 2014), which received the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry and was shortlisted for the 2015 NAACP Image Award, and Totem, which was selected by Brenda Hillman for the American Poetry Review/Honickman Prize in 2007. Pardlo is also the author of Air Traffic, a memoir in essays forthcoming (Knopf, 2018).
Photograph: “Star Trails at St. Agnes Cemetery” by ©Chuck Miller