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Tag: Gregory Pardlo


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.


In the Preamble, Gouverneur Morris refers, poetically,

to the “domestic tranquility” shattered by rebelling

veterans who, unable to pay mounting war taxes, confronted

the state for having seized their homes. They argued

their point with bayonets fixed to their flintlock rifles. Point being

that blood should have been enough, as it was in their barter

economy, to square their debt in the Revolution.

Morris could not abide an economy that imagined exchange

in such discrete terms. For him, every shilling appraised on an altar

of speculative devotions, every home subject to the metaphoric

notion of home, the value of tranquility proportionate

to the power one has to gerrymander the metaphor.

Consider the dear evangelists who canvass our homes

saturday mornings, who share their pamphlets and good

words, their domestic concerns swelling with their

longing for the fellowship of us. spinoza gives us

this reason not to opt off of their call lists: The good

which a man desires for himself and loves, he will love

more constantly if he sees that others love it also;

he will therefore endeavor that others should love it also.

Be tolerant of their attention, their pursuit of agape,

a planet-sized chip they bear on their shoulders

from house to house, door to door, welcome

or not, blessing whatever they find inside.

I finally friended my brother.

It may be we will never

speak again. Why speak

when we have this crystal ball

through which

to judge one another’s lives?

I imagine this is what

the afterlife will be like.

I’m ghost, we say

instead of goodbye.

It is nearly July in Brooklyn and already

the fireworks from Chinatown warehouses

are bursting in stellar fluorescence like tinsel-tied

dreadlocks above the Bushwick tenements and the brownstone

blocks of Bed-Stuy now littered with the skittering

décollage of wrappers exploded across blacktops and handball

courts, playgrounds and sidewalks knuckled by tree roots.

My neighbor’s teenaged boys argue who possesses the greatest

patriotism. Just as pit bulls chained to their fists imply

their roughly domesticated manhood,

they seek to demonstrate their patriotism with bottle

rockets, spinners, petards, these household paraphernalia of war.

The competition is vigorous, draws spectators and blood.

When the smoke clears, no charges

are filed. We neighbors waver distractedly a moment

before tracing our paths back into our quiet homes.

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.

Written by Himself

I was born in minutes in a roadside kitchen a skillet

whispering my name. I was born to rainwater and lye;

I was born across the river where I

was borrowed with clothespins, a harrow tooth,

broadsides sewn in my shoes. I returned, though

it please you, through no fault of my own,

pockets filled with coffee grounds and eggshells.

I was born still and superstitious; I bore an unexpected burden.

I gave birth, I gave blessing, I gave rise to suspicion.

I was born abandoned outdoors in the heat-shaped air,

air drifting like spirits and old windows.

I was born a fraction and a cipher and a ledger entry;

I was an index of first lines when I was born.

I was born waist-deep stubborn in the water crying

ain’t I a woman and a brother I was born

to this hall of mirrors, this horror storyIwas

born with a prologue of references, pursued

by mosquitoes and thieves, I was born passing

off the problem of the twentieth century: I was born.

I read minds before I could read fishes and loaves;

I walked a piece of the way alone before I was born.

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.

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.