For the City that Nearly Broke Me

By Reginald Dwayne Betts
Knots like two dozen fists
swayed with want from the boy’s
kaffiyeh, that black and white scarf
with its useless hands clopping
against the wind in protest
against this boy and his somebody
lost, against their own swaying
in a dance the lost body has lost.
A boy. A somebody lost. A body bodied
in the lights of inauguration night
when every light in the city flared
with hope. Always losing, always
a boy left with a dozen weights,
small circles on strings pulling
his head down to the ground.
Downcast. Drop your bucket here
and make the city yours and all
that jive keeps him from running.
Escaping the pavement, where
bodies finally fall to rest.
The kaffiyeh keeps him from
bucking against the wind,
hurtling himself to the Grey-
hound or Amtrak or I-95
with a book bag and hitched finger.
His head shrouded in the black
and white, the knots keeping
his eyes down as he traverses
neighborhoods with names like 3rd
World, with names like a nation
falling. And the coffin-voiced
boy is who god tells us he will
save, and so those swinging knots
must be a kind of redemption,
a way to see the bullets that bury
you, constantly, as if death is
the disguise hiding your wings.

This poem first appeared in Tikkun Magazine.

Source: Poetry (November 2012).

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This poem originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of Poetry magazine

November 2012
 Reginald Dwayne Betts

Biography

Reginald Dwayne Betts is author of the memoir A Question of Freedom (Avery, 2009) and the poetry collection Shahid Reads His Own Palm (Alice James Books, 2010). He is a 2010 Soros Justice Fellow and 2011 Radcliffe Fellow.

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Sorrow & Grieving, Youth, Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life, Class

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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