Skip to content →

Category archive for: Mitchel L.H. Douglas

Blood Aubade, 1969

for Fred Hampton & Mark Clark

Chairman’s head

swims a dream, lover

& unborn son: his crown, wing.

How heavy the body

in sleep/death, drag

to vacant doorway, head

a woolen quill, scrawls black

blood @ the hooves of “men.”

Was it by arm, a fist-

full of hair, yank from the rouge

of the pierced bedroom?

If you know a bullet’s wrath—wood splinter,

plaster   )blast( steel drum tap

dance, box spring (catch all) humming

like a hive of bees—you know

the gauge.

In the fury—shots

first, no questions, pigs

(black & white) squeal

@ 4:30 a.m.  false aubade.

The bed:

soft alter,

no offer

to our gods.

from dying in the scarecrow’s armsFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2018
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

After murder,

the complex changes

names. The Flats,

The Villas, pretty gauze

for old wounds. As if

we forgot the bullets,

the children that fell, the angry

boyfriends living w/children

they do not love. I drive by

& try to remember when

pieces fit. A cloud

of cardinals explodes

from a snow drift, the splash

of my tires etching dirt

in the bank. All this flying,

impact, stain. Don’t tell me

you can’t see.

from dying in the scarecrow’s armsFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2018
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

How You Got Here

for Tamir

12 is the cinder: bright-

eyed boy w/pellet gun,

the coffin of plastic things,

(draw & aim

draw & aim).

Face immortalized

in perpetual smile, the soft

space a soccer ball lands. Swear

it was&nbsp an accident,

so boys say, same

ones crying

That’s the same thing you had on yesterday!

What’s wrong?

Ya Momma ain’t got no money?

How low we are,

target

2 seconds after cruiser

exit. Memory—

your insides escaping

through the hole

of a single slug. Ghost,

missing, black

helium rising,

angel wings fixed

to the back of your hoodie, ascension

on a random

city block.

It is November.

Cleveland is cold

as Cleveland often is.

The story is just that:

12-year-old you

falsely armed, the cops

falsely alarmed.

from dying in the scarecrow’s armsFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2018
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Ekphrasis: Giza ’61

Perhaps it’s not the way

Satchmo’s horn is an angle

of light—the bell

raised to heaven—or

the way Lucille smiles

her approval, leans back

into the space

meant for music. Notice

the pyramids, the Sphinx

in the ancient distance,

& thanks to the illusion

of the capture, its stone lips

seem poised to kiss

Louie’s hands, a blessing

of the highest calling. Yes,

love can be measured

breath, a divining rod

w/valve & gleam,

(around Lucille’s neck, binoculars?)

a note to sift the sand.

from dying in the scarecrow’s armsFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2018
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Loosies

Right now, I shouldn’t be

the cigarette dangling

from the mouth of the man

you will ride

like a Derby horse

to roses. His name:

Eric. Your bloodline:

Pantaleo.

Fuck

persona, calculated

throat clutch, note control. How

can I mimic & sing

through scream?

For you, this is fantasy: the pony

you’ve always wanted, a story

to share in the squad room

when the day is done & men

of power fall into territorial pissing.

Yes, he is bigger. Are you

frightened? Yes,

he is a man. Does the mass

make him less?

Is the story spinning

your gears, do you dream

of besting the thin blue

w/the one that didn’t get away?

This is sport to you,

the choke, grip

& spin. No applause,

but you hold on,

count seconds

like cowboys do.

Cigarettes was it?

I think I know the way

this works, the hope

& crash.

Just

bear witness, say

the words: A man w/a wife

& kids is dead

over loosies, & suddenly

the centuries—

17th & 21st—have burns

to share.

from dying in the scarecrow’s armsFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2018
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Selma Love Song

Like Son’s sweet resonator,

I am the honey bee moan

in your tender ear:

silver howl, cross-

road breath. This body

tuned & flawed,

the fretboard

a plank of mercy.

In the burn

of the baddest juke,

no soul fears dance,

damns touch. Our hands,

dear God, sign

the wanting. They tremble,

slide  release

the loudest chords.

from dying in the scarecrow’s armsFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2018
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Why Grits Burn So Bad

As I make a late breakfast,

my 8-year-old cheers

@ the promise of grits. Surely

there is a little Southern woman

in her soul. You wonder

how grits could ever

be a weapon, flung

hard from the hand

of a lover scorned, the way

the grains wrap & cling, refuse

to be lonely. All that flesh she loved

burning now, past simmer, full

on boil. I can only feel sorry

for the Reverend, any note

he ever sang pale

in the company

of hot warble. I spoon

a healthy portion

on my daughter’s plate

& shiver. If

you reached the end of this poem

& all you can say is, “Shouldn’t it be

‘Badly,’ not ‘Bad’?

I bet

you’ve never been loved.

from dying in the scarecrow’s armsFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2018
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Circle

and the road twisted on to his loveless

house and his cornfield dying

in the scarecrow’s arms.

—Robert Hayden

Today the sun

has fists, not rays. Nothing delicate

happens here. Watch

the beating that goes

ignored: The Circle, evening,

the monument in call

of war, a common Indiana

ranch w/the roof

ripped off.

Boruch says the Midwest is sieve, pass—

through, permanently

in transit, flux.

It is the get-here-to-get-there,

the sun’s mapped fists

in an orange 6 o’clock

beat down, the tenants

strewn about the concrete circumference, liquid

in states of rest, skin & bone

poured over the curb

of South Meridian, splayed

beneath a mailbox, propped against

a garbage can outside

St___b___s. The suits’

& walkers’ heads turn,

sidestepping the future

they escaped, eyes on

a latte, the next block.

Today the sun

has a better haymaker,

a better uppercut,

a wicked right/left combo.

Today the sun

is perfecting its roundhouse,

& his size 14 keeps connecting

left jaw, right jaw, you would cry,

but there’s no layaway

for tears. So you cuddle up

on an asphalt couch

next to your brothers & sisters,

the Styrofoam maracas

of cups & change lulling you to rest

like the pluck

of kalimbas in turning

signals, the basslines

car horns hang

in exhaust

cruising through your living room

on an airless city night.

from dying in the scarecrow’s armsFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2018
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Continuum

After days of murder, more bodies

than nights in a week, you would think

we’d say Enough. Instead,

more blood. Don’t think

it’s just the dealers, that side

of law not in your nature.

It’s expectant fathers on morning walks,

it’s businessmen minding their business,

selling denim on Sunday afternoons.

Yesterday, my student, who doesn’t believe

in gun control, said he wanted to write

a poem about parenting & the right

to bear arms, how slipping on one side

affects the other

(you guess

which way that goes).

& though you won’t find me w/steel

in the small of my back (@ least

not by my hand), I know the peace

a poem can bring. So I say, Yes,

write. & he goes back to his seat

nodding his head, the room filled

w/the voices of his classmates

comparing Dove, Simic, & Wright,

the push of my chair

back from my desk to stand & speak

like fingernails

on a chalk board, like a scream

when a gun       fires.

from dying in the scarecrow’s armsFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2018
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Oak

After a night of indulgence, your snifter

filled to the hips w/sweet brown clear,

leave a taste @ the foot, rest

your head & dream of other rich nights.

In the morning, if your head is steady, stomach

ready for the day’s first meal, check

that glass again. The clear brown

is now cloud, resin

of the barrel. W/care, raise the glass

to your nose, inhale the memory. But never—no

never—taste. That time, dear one,

is all but ash.

from dying in the scarecrow’s armsFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2018
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.