Two Poems by Luis Pabon

Jesus in a Dive Bar

I have tried to be saviors of men

But I have been a messy messiah

A breathable sin. Betwixt the salt and sugar

The gin, I have been unholy water

A baptism of skin as I walk on water

A mix of death and semen

Climax a different prayer as they cry out to heaven

Help them. Help this.

As the music grips the flesh makes it dance

Outside the bone. Unhinge the mouth

Enter the soul. As seed falls on grounds that don’t grow

As I kiss the sick, the maimed and the old

Hug lepers and expel the demons they hold

But I am no lord, no body dressed a ray of light

As I kneel before men an act of obeisance

Move my prayers between their legs

Climax their salvation

How can I be anyone’s Moses when I still crave deliverance?

My spirit begs this question

As I plead a different need asking for a liquid blessing

But I am no savior

I cannot raise the dead up

There are bodies that have died in me

Some I have not buried yet

In this I rest

Put on my best

And wait for the end at 4am

Where I become resurrected again

A spirit refreshed

Waiting for this worn old body to catch its second death.

Aunt Jemima and the Colonization of Attraction  

For years I was born with an oppressed tongue

Coated with the sweet taste of my own bondage

I did not know better because breakfast was good

Tasted like love, the hot butter Sunday melted soft

On stacks of racked up flap jacks & flour dough

My pancake box caged a beautiful brown soul

Who looked like love and hopeful slave songs 

Head covered with a bright white patterned scarf

Teeth smiling like she was proud to be on that box 

Every morning I would see her sing her way to my plate

As I watched face full of apple cheeks, grinning all the way

The nameless joy of being full off such unknown undoing

Then school came. The black girls never looked good on the playground

During recess, they all looked like struggle

They made my face feel good as I smiled a full hunger

But I was awful. I never learned how to love them. Not like I thought I ought to

I never remembered that mama did the cooking

I always just saw a steaming plate of hotcakes

Find their way to my lonely plate never asking how they got there in the first place

I drenched the cooked hot flour with thick rich syrup

Laughing at the sticky-lipped grinning boy cast inside my mirror

Learning to love him every bit as less as I learned to love them,

The women on the box. Caught in the mirror with the man

Who sees them only on Sunday mornings with cheeks full & smiling again. 

Luis Pabon is a poet and spoken word artist born and raised in Bronx, NY. He is the author of six books of poetry, most recently Boy Butter (2020), and one chapbook, Ricanstruction (2016), which explores his Black and Puerto Rican heritage. Luis currently resides in Albany, NY, and is working on his next full collection of poems, entitled Earth’s Bad Mouth, slated for a 2021 release.

Image: Film still from “Outline 2” by Alan Coon

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