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for Colin Channer

“sing the Union cause, sing us,/ the poor, the marginal.”

—Robert Hayden, “Homage to Paul Robeson”


Note the confection of your body

salt on the breeze, the corn-

silk sky. Olmstead’s signature

archways and meadows. Kite

strings tensing the load of a saddle-

backed wind. This is Prospect Park,

Brooklyn, where limbs tickle

and jounce as if ice cubes shiver

along the shirtsleeves of evergreens. Pond

water whispers, and the echoes of Yankee

fifes linger in wind and in the shirring jazz

hands of leaves, and those shirts,

the skins, the human retinue converging

on the uneven playing fields. The African

drum and dance circle sways the pignut

tree into a charismatic trance as

Orthodox women walk powerfully by, jogging

shoes blinking beneath the billows of their

skirts, children rollerblading, trailing

tzitzits. Take heart in the percussion

structuring the distance like prophetic

weather, a shelter of vibrations:

the last conga note a bolt tapped into

the day’s doorframe and you are no less,

no more home here than in the corridors

you return to in your dreams. Illusory,

altogether babel-fractured, a single word

from you might bring the verdant fun-house

down. Listen like a safecracker, navigate

the intricate ruptures by ear: the Latin

patois of picnickers, the slavic tongues

of lovers replacing your mouth with self-

conscious silence. You are Caliban

and Crusoe, perpetual stranger with a fork

in the socket of life’s livid grid,

stunned and bewildered at the frank

intrusion of the mosquito on the hairless

back of your hand. You are stranded

at the limit, extremity and restriction,

jealous for that elusive—the domestic, yes,

you’re thinking: not the brick and mortar, but

the quickening backfill of belonging, the stranger-

facing, the neighbor-knowing confidence and ease

with the ripple that diminishes as it extends

over the vast potential of immovable thirst.

You are home now, outsider, for what that’s worth.

from DigestFind more by Gregory Pardlo at the library

Copyright © 2014 Gregory Pardlo
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Published in Gregory Pardlo Poems

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.