In NoMa1 God is quieter than cars
or car horns; graves are louder than the deadened
voice of God. The sounding city sings of
her own death—. What voice survives this drown?
Can outspeak groaning engines? What sight outshines
the shine of chrome-glazed wheels? Light from light
is lighting up the rims of wheels is brighter
than the neon signs or broken bottles
is lighter than the darkened windows or
the violent steel that keeps shop windows
closed in summer heat when wind is
crying, kneeling at the doors, and crying
to come in—her voice goes hoarse. She stops.
The violent steel that keeps the windows closed
stands guard. Is stern. Is left behind when lights
change to green and engines only muttering
roar. She looked, each driver thinks of every
girl in shaded glass, sun-blind, at me.
God hides, half-whispers. Is no match. God rests
each morning now. This quiet death would be
his only sign. So. Who can live here?
Who can live here? Two homeless men
in once-white kicked the shit out of
each other. A police car drove by blindly and
a white girl smiled too much, too nonchalant,
walked with her boyfriend seeing-and-not-seeing
the man who pulled at metaphorical chains—
the men who held him back: he demonstrated
viciousness. He yelled halfheartedly
the threats of death, his willingness to go
to jail again, to kill.
It was perfunction. All rage
was gone. But there were other homeless men around
who saw—who knew his practiced hate
that was for them. Who loved him for the show.
If the poet can survive, he cannot stay.
Each bottle is an I and he
If he has heard the silent second that is God
he must leave now or drown in staying;
sound that floods the lights-bathed city as waves.
He’ll plod past streetlight-spotlights, the bright chrome
rims—center stage at every four-way stop.
He’ll shut his eyes. God can blind, he knows.
He’ll leave. His feet will leave. His mind will try.
A sidewalk there is stained still with his blood.
NoMa’s poet tucks the voice of God
in the cradle of his chest. He bows
at the beautiful. He bears the bloodmoods.
He enters steel-locked shops and shops for food.
He’s seen the face of God in pools, in wind.
It carries him like clouds are borne by gusts
too high to feel. He trusts what he can hear
of God—the whispers. The broken bottles.
He sanctifies the streetlights’ staggered glow
though he would never call it sanctity.
He has a love for where he’s stepped, for steps he’s loved
and houses he has seen from birth, and known.
The chant of his own ghetto lives in him.
Do you know who I am? Then look at me.
Do you know who I am?
1 “North of Massachusetts Avenue,” a suburb of DC.