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Tag: Tommye Blount

Historical Site

Still it’s dark enough

this morning that I can see

the fireflies going off and on—

recording what angles

the old house’s cameras cannot

see. Something is watching me,

so I keep my distance

when I strain my eyes to read

the lit plaque

to the left of the front door.

My eyes are useless;

vision not good enough

to parse out what part of history

is important enough to warrant

bronze foundry. I overheard at Meijer

one day that some part of this house

was used to hide slaves until nightfall

when they’d follow the stars

south of here, to Canada. As often with history,

this house has been restaged. Not even the land it squats on

is the original address, the house lifted

from its foundation

a mile down the road,

yet it makes for a lovely setting for white

weddings, picnics, guided tours.

I’m afraid of this big house

when it is dark like this;

when I am dark like this.

Not a slave, I can read

and want to run

my finger across the raised lettering,

even though that would trigger some alarm;

would flood the yard with white light;

would signal the police to come

and the police would flood me with white light—

so many stars spangling all over me.

I’d be the constellation those runaways

angled their necks up to—

blinking and blinking.

from Fantasia for the Man in BlueFind more by Tommye Blount at the library

Copyright © 2020 Tommye Blount
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Late Show at the Americana


Oh, you know America—there was a decision:

sell off the small house to the big house;

add metal detectors; shake every purse;

reverse every pocket—what’s that in your pants;

take off your coat, your shoes; nope, you can’t

wear those—get them socks off; better yet, take off

your shirt—that one too; step out of your pants; drop

the underwear; keep your eyes on me—

I need you to pay attention; part your hair

then your cheeks, your ass; lift your balls,

lift your tongue; tell me where you parked

—I need to search your car for something;

I need to drive your car to your house;

give me the keys to your house or I will have no choice

but to knock your door down; where is the thing—

under the sink; under the floorboards; you don’t

need to know what I’m looking for;

I’ve got my reasons; you can come in

over my dead body; once you exit

who’s to say I will let you back in?


If you wanted to return, a ticket

is not enough, my friend—it’s just

a slip of paper that can be torn.

Look here, give me it—

see? Now try to get past me—

I dare you. I’m a fucking wall, dude.

Respect the badge—this star

with my name written across it.


Flicks are my thing—ask me anything. Like,

I bet you didn’t know this: the horror house

in this movie, that’s set in Birmingham, Michigan,

was actually a plantation-style house in Birmingham,

Alabama. Isn’t that wild; the way one part of America

can stand in for another part of America?

That’s like if I called you nigger

in Birmingham it sounds the same as if I called you

nigger in Birmingham. Of course, I would never

say that word, you understand. I like you people.


Just bury me in this blazer,

these starched pants, licorice dark shoes.

Or better yet burn me up, then

pour my ashes in a film reel’s canister.

Bury that in a block of cement; pour me

into the sidewalk the way they do in Hollywood

with the stars on the Walk of Fame. It’s American,

the dream to leave a piece of you behind

for tourists to walk all over. Look down

at the ground—you are standing in

my home. You know what I say? Shut the door behind you

when you leave my country of screens;

of so many white stars.


So these fucking dudes, that don’t even speak

English, keep carrying away my theater brick by brick,

right past me as if I am so white

that I’ve disappeared—no one sees me.

I refuse to move; I can’t leave—

my counter always ready at zero, zero, zero.

Have you heard of those multiplexes now?

They want you to believe those

tiny shit boxes are just like home: La-Z-Boys

that recline to a fuck-me friendly angle; shitty food like

fried mozzarella sticks and potato skins; more showtimes:

all to get more bottoms for their bottom lines.

Oh, I know America. Oh say can you see

my wide white ass—it ain’t going

anywhere. This is the house of dreams I built.


Where the balcony was, a sign went up

for a Starbucks; the ticket booth, a Korean-owned

nail shop. You should have seen

how they carried away the screen—

a bridal train without a bride. And me here,

a groom jilted at the altar, all dressed up

funeral-nice. Remember when a movie

was one big screen: one image shared by many:

black and white? The movie house

was a country of star gazers—all in the dark

looking up into all of that light.

And everyone knowing their places.

from Fantasia for the Man in BlueFind more by Tommye Blount at the library

Copyright © 2020 Tommye Blount
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Framing Debra Shaw

I felt as if my body was in a picture frame.

A simple math of angles really,

nothing too fussy, a square,

soldered at each corner a ring, sound

design, just thin enough not to be confused

for shackles, there are no chains,

little bangles to meet her biceps,

garter her strong upper thighs, see

there is room for her to slip out of them

if she chooses, McQueen asked,

she had a choice, okay,

okay?, okay?!,

she was made aware of the frame, open

to opening the show, to show,

McQueen said, Aryan notions

of beauty are ridiculous,

so why not open—her body

as the entry way, her walk

barely a walk, an animal-scuttle,

does she even feel it, when her thighs

pedal her down the steps, is there an ache,

her soles slosh the runway—filled with black

water, it isn’t that deep,

a tributary to hop across, or

a mouth opened to trouble

the hound-eyed cameras’

sniff for the smell of

genius, everyone claps

for her, or not for

her, the simple black

mesh dress, its beaded fringe—

how, as graceless as she appears,

she manages

not a rip or tear, isn’t it a miracle,

McQueen’s folly, his imagination,

a savagely dark and beautiful thing?

from Fantasia for the Man in BlueFind more by Tommye Blount at the library

Copyright © 2020 Tommye Blount
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

The Button

I didn’t quite suit him, so my brother

—without a word, as if it were his shirt—

popped my top button. I grabbed him by the

wrists—the same way I do all men hurt

by a need to fix me, sieve out the honey from my blood.

I meant to break him like the sweet promise

I’d make to any lonely man—horny

enough to break to me the same promise.

Do we, in our hold, this hug, this pushing,

not appear as feuding lovers? Brothers,

yes, yes, are nothing but lovers passing

blood back and forth in one fight, another.

He could’ve loved me, so I let him prevail.

Instead, he flicked a piece of me from his nail.

from Fantasia for the Man in BlueFind more by Tommye Blount at the library

Copyright © 2020 Tommye Blount
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.


If skin is a stage’s scrim through which

light passes and drums up

what the eye wants to see, then

the body is a theater

of war—a site of

disagreement between what is

there and what one

perceives is there. There is a town

on TV coming undone

over the body of a boy

believed to be devoid of light. The town

disappears in light after explosion

of light projected through

the television set to my eyes—

refusing to look closer.

If I were to look closer

at the scene, there would only be

a series of red, blue, and green

pixels abutting each other

like the political map

of this city or that village. Inside of the TV,

the protesters are struck by the song

of nightsticks and pepper spray, then they turn

into smoke screens. In that case, then, the body

is a smoke screen for what

I lack the courage to say:

if that boy devoid of light ran toward me

would I have not flinched, in return,

with my body—devoid of light?

from Fantasia for the Man in BlueFind more by Tommye Blount at the library

Copyright © 2020 Tommye Blount
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

American Elegy

Less boy, more band,

more twang, less bling,

less hip-hop, on brand,

more opry, less bang,

less cornrows, more corn-

field, spiritual, less house,

more plantation, a shorn

image, more downhome,

more green, more blue

sky, more bluegrass,

less rhythm, less

blues, more church pew,

more cross, less hood,

more hood, more white

washed denim, less back-

lash, more goldenrod,

less ballad, more lyric,

less gold grills, less rap

sheet, more sheet music,

less trap beat, less trap

beat, more poplar,

less popular, a more authentic timbre,

more big game, more field

dressing, more lake,

more master—control.

from Fantasia for the Man in BlueFind more by Tommye Blount at the library

Copyright © 2020 Tommye Blount
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

The Purse Thieves

There was the arm, the black

pricey number barely on her

white shoulder in broad daylight.

Why first did she have to look

to my face when she screamed

stop? I did nothing

except look up from the gas pump,

yes—held tight as a gun,

before I looked back down again to witness

nothing, only my shadow. I saw nothing—

just two boys who favored me

when I was that age and always mistaken

for being older. I mean, I felt nothing,

except that my body was not my body

anymore; stomach shoved aside

to make room for two more; I was an animal

raised to be slaughtered in the name of a

pricey leather number dangling from a shoulder

to be stolen. It all happened so fast—

my shadow bled into their shadows,

for a moment, a second, an eye-blink,

as we fled across the lot. We

were at play together in a race

like brothers. And like brothers,

just like that, the shadows broke apart

and we were separated again. I saw nothing—

only their bodies

slid into the back of a white van and

I slid back into my white car

as if I might chase them down

to save them or

I don’t know. I did nothing,

I brought both hands to my face.

I heard the white van’s wheels peel the afternoon

like a mask I thought could never be removed—

a skin. When the police sirens grew larger,

I pulled my hands from my face,

placed them on the steering wheel.

from Fantasia for the Man in BlueFind more by Tommye Blount at the library

Copyright © 2020 Tommye Blount
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Fantasia for the Man in Blue

You know good and well you can’t be out here

in the dark morning to take in

the moon—full as the bowl of light

attached to this police cruiser. Like a grayed

elephant shoots air through its trunk

before it charges off to safety

from a mouse in one of those old black

and white cartoons, you shriek

in a debutante’s pitch,

even though, there are reports,

you are as large as an elephant.

Car thefts in the area,

the man in blue explains after

he asks, “Where do you think you’re going?”

It’s unusual to see your kind walking

at this hour. You’re an elephant

who’s really just a man sweating away

in a mascot’s costume. You mumble

an address; you fumble

for an address that isn’t your address

but mine. Oh, you’ve done it now—

don’t say anything else. Let me

take over this body; soften what letters

will bend—I am a poet after all.

Don’t worry. You’ll see. He’ll wish us

a good morning and let us go,

after he bends us over the black hood.

from Fantasia for the Man in BlueFind more by Tommye Blount at the library

Copyright © 2020 Tommye Blount
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

My God, Lick Him Clean

After “Portrait of Christopher D. Fisher, Fourth Reich Skinhead, 1995,”

Peter Williams

“Who is this,” you asked

yourself, then swiped right

across the white boy’s face.

And the rest was history.


It’s immense—larger than Williams’ canvas;

larger than the skinned head of that framed white boy

staring back. I’m talking an old big boat,

a Portuguese schooner named Arrogante.

It’s an old story: the ship trucked

its swiped cargo all the way from Sierra Leone

only to be captured in Montego Bay.

In the hull of the ship, a boy

whose skin and hair were brighter than any

the sailors had ever seen before. Out of curiosity or love

of ritual from the old country, they held him down;

pulled his head back

—the neck opened faster than his wrists or ankles.

If you were there, you would have mistaken his begging

for song, you would have heard the splash

of their laughter. You should have seen

the head, its brilliant blond halo, put out in the Atlantic.

Oh, you too would have found yourself in the hull of the ship;

hungry. Bad horse meat, you would have said.

You’d never be able to get the blond strand

out of your teeth. Refuse to eat and the men

would have made sure you never hungered

again. As a charm or votive to God, the men,

before eating it, held that boy’s heart in their hands

the way Williams’ white boy has yours now. Now, don’t go worrying

your pretty little head, all of that stuff happened a long time ago.


A long time ago, after the white boys in blue

beat Rodney King, I was there watching

when the Black boys dragged Reginald Denny

from his truck; my face was cast in the television set;

my face, an American intersection, the black sun

of my face burned into four Black sons;


An old story: once you fell for a blond boy

with black suns for eyes; fell to your knees,

put him in your mouth. It was immense,

you could not breathe. He held your head

down there for so long. Oh, he couldn’t help it

that he was so beautiful. Why would he want you

to lift your head, meet his gaze in the middle of it—

a reminder of what you both were to each other.

That’s an old story—one in which

your body became nourishment

for his. You didn’t resist

when he held your head down,

your nose pressed against his pelvis,

his head buried in your throat

an old salve. He couldn’t help it,

that boy was so sweet, so devastatingly pretty.


Whose face is this?


my eyes, the crowns of their heads; my face,

many faces in the crowd—it was an old story,

historical, there was no difference; we all looked alike,

no one could tell whose face was whose,


An eye for each soft eye—are they not guilty

of innocence? The face swiped

across the canvas could be anyone or no one—

simply a mask staring back. In the portrait

of the subject, always the likeness of its maker,

there is no difference between you and me.

It’s your painted face, a blackened face,

that can’t stop smiling, you’re the skinned

head, the one the white boy held

between his legs until you lost your Black mind,

until you choked on all of that whiteness, blond hair

caught in your teeth. It’s a story heard before,

but you wanted to save the white boy

from history, so you begged him to use your body;

let him call you his salve; make you his

absolution. When he tells you he’s sorry,

how could you not fall to your knees,

my God, lick him clean?


when we dragged that white boy to his knees,

we dragged all white boys

who have trucked their way through history;

we dragged him as if we meant to save him

from his whiteness; we wanted

to skin the skin right off of him,


Who is this, you ask the face, because you can’t see

the race. It could be anyone staring back—

the tendons woven back over then across

themselves like history’s ashen fibers.

No, not across, just underneath the surface,

always there ordering each cord to raise

or fall, like when a Black man opens his mouth

wide enough to accommodate a white boy,

of course, the way you did, the history around your lips

tensed, then slackened like rope or a noose or

a tied knot. You wanted to marry your body with his

until there was no difference between you and me.

Who was it that said: in the portrait of the subject

is always the likeness of its maker?


Whose face is this, whose face is this?


so many witnessed the white man’s skin,

soft as history, how it gave up, how it caved,

how it surrendered his skull, how we recognized the face

of every white man that took shortcuts before him;

when we were done, he was unrecognizable; we were infamous,

the L.A. Four, we made a name


Christopher: the name of Williams’ white boy

is the name of the white boy who

pressed your head down on his little head,

then you bared your teeth a little, enough

to eat him, he wanted it to hurt a little—

a little forgiveness that was not forgiveness,

he wanted you to scar him a little,

give him something tangible enough

to heal from, it’s an old story, you gave him what he wanted,

you did not heel your big Black mouth, you were always hungry,

he made sure you were never hungry again,

he flooded your mouth, and (see?) you did not drown,

your throat clear enough to sing: O my white longing,

O my long pig. You were not the past,

you were past racial, so you sucked his long pig

to divorce him of his kin, to force all of him in your mouth;

his blond head thrown back as if he might laugh;

his face swiped in shadow; his eyes shut to history’s cuckold.


for ourselves; we got that white boy on all fours,

he couldn’t talk, we made him swallow

his words; he wasn’t innocent; we were wronged;

okay, we didn’t drag him, but he climbed out of his truck;

why didn’t he stay inside; why didn’t we stay inside;

why did he have to face us; why did we have to face him;

who did he think we were; who did we think we were;

we made him sorry; we were sorry;

he called out for help; we were calling out for help;

we were just kids; I was just a kid—

my mouth wide open, I swallowed

the Black boys, I swallowed the white boy,

I held my head down, I choked up, I was so sorry—

whose face was that; whose face is this?


There is no difference between you and me.


I am in love with a white boy, he is beautiful,

so sweet. You should see him, I mean really see him:

the way his head gets framed inside the crook of my neck;

my nose pressed against his forehead.

When he holds his hand to my chest,

a salute against my heart,

is this not a pledged allegiance, a vow, love

of ritual from an old country?

Let’s call this an epithalamium—

an old story about balls and chains,

one you’ve heard before. Through the blinds’

slats, the sun catches his face and

he is so beautiful. I lose my breath

when he pulls my head back,

my eyes meet his eyes and I want to drown

in them. My Black suns in his eyes.

I give him my heart.


I’ve lost my head, it’s an old story.


Whose face is this; whose body falls now from my mouth?


History: Arrogante: big boat: swiped cargo: swipe right.


I can’t speak. Whose tongue is in my mouth?

from Fantasia for the Man in BlueFind more by Tommye Blount at the library

Copyright © 2020 Tommye Blount
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

How Sweet this Great Land

The white girl is arrested

by joy—or is it hunger?

Whatever is there bubbling

in her perfect little body,

she has been taught

to subdue it. Crossed,

her arms make an X

like a contract’s signature; her wrists

rest against her skirt’s pleats.

Almost as if I were a lecherous savage

and not the coheir of this

moment, my nose brushes

the photograph—what must her hands

smell like? Not an odd question

when I consider the dangers

of hunger. Ah yes, there it is—the scent

too loud for even history to shush:

sweet relish, sharp chives, crush of dill—

sandwiched under her nails; a sandwich

some Black child’s mother made. How sweet

this great land of nostalgia—

when there were fewer

houses than there were trees;

safe. She looks as if she might hum;

so happy to be in the cool shade

of the man swinging from his branch.

from Fantasia for the Man in BlueFind more by Tommye Blount at the library

Copyright © 2020 Tommye Blount
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.