Big City

By Amaud Jamaul Johnson
He promises a canary dress, white gloves,
says they’ll eat chops, thick as her thighs,
that they’ll order doubles of the “finest,”
see all the Big Names when they arrive.
But it’s the thought of them dead:
half of what they own draped around them,
her head against his chest, his back slack
against the headboard, all their letters unopened,
bills not paid, long knocks, the notices tacked
outside their door. It’s not knowing
whether some smell would introduce them
to their neighbors or a landlord wheeling
them out into the hallway; the highboy
he chipped on the drive up, the silver
she inherited from her mother, her hatboxes,
stacked high next to them like a wedding cake
waiting to be buried. He heard that “up there”
the wind had talons sharp enough to hook
a grown man beneath his collarbone and carry
him a full city block. He heard that you learned
the months by measuring the length of their shadows
and even summer was like a quality of night.

Amaud Jamaul Johnson, “Big City” from Red Summer. Copyright © 2006 by Amaud Jamaul Johnson. Reprinted by permission of Tupelo Press.

Source: Red Summer (Tupelo Press, 2006)

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Poet Amaud Jamaul Johnson

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Living, Death, Time & Brevity, Relationships, Men & Women, Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life

 Amaud Jamaul Johnson

Biography

Born and raised in Compton, California, poet Amaud Jamaul Johnson was educated at Howard University and Cornell. His debut collection, Red Summer (2006), examines the infamous race riots of 1919, during which nearly a hundred African American men in cities across the country were lynched. The book won the 2004 Dorset Prize from Tupelo Press. Selecting the volume, judge Carl Phillips noted that “Johnson’s poems remind us that the . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Death, Time & Brevity, Relationships, Men & Women, Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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