the salve trade

By Fred Moten Fred Moten
all down on perdido street, from san juan

to inglewood, up on that bridge, up where the
soul trees grow by soul, dance to fantastic
information while we kick off the modern world.

the whistle sounded good like a kiss on a train.

a track below us in the cabinet in the tunnel

under the water. a steady boom to lift us out.
nobody lived, not without digging, but he wore


that ivory waistcoat and we loved to see that shit.

I love my people too much to be around them
at school. I slip underneath the cinema tree, move myself
in half, dance to fray, write a paper on the salve trade.


the big fat women and the heliocopters they bring

with them to watch them and their kids. whole long-

ass sheets of improper names. we refused to act right
at the hospital and I was right with ’em. at the wrong time

I started reading my paper and ash flew from their big ol’
legs. we rub down and dance everyday at the broke clinic

and I was right with ’em. johnny griffin turns to this long
burning to pray for fire. make a song about the sky they stole.


if you ain’t gon’ get down then what you come here for?

what they bring your ass up in here for if you ain’t gon’
tear shit up? if you wasn’t just as happy to be here as you was

to come then what you gon’ do, simple motherfucker? the salve trade

Fred Moten, “the salve trade” from hughsons tavern. Copyright © 2008 by Fred Moten. Reprinted by permission of Leon Works.

Source: hughson’s tavern (Leon Works, 2008)

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Poet Fred Moten

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

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