Homan and Chicago Ave.

By Phillip B. Williams b. 1986
Cross the blood
that quilts your busted lip
with the tender tip
of   your tongue. That lip’s
blood is brackish and white
meat flares from the black
swell. You crossed your mama’s
mind so call her sometimes.
She dreams your dead daddy
still puts his hands on her
waist. She calls his name
then crosses herself, calls
the police then crosses
her fingers. Cross me
and get cut across your cheek,
its fat bag full of   bad words
and cheap liquor you hide
from your badass kids. Make
a wish for bad weather
when the hoodlums get to shooting
in a good summer’s heat.
Cross the territory between
two gangs and feel eyes stare
and cross in a blur of crosshairs.
When a shot man lands
in the garden of trash the block
flares up like an appetite
spurred on by the sight
of prey, by the slurred
prayer of a man so death-close
he sees buzzards burrow
their bladed beaks into
his entry wound. Tune
the trumpets. Make way through
dusk’s clutter. After death
the dead cross over into song,
their bones tuning-forked
into vibrancy. Cross your lips,
mutiny against all speech
when a corpse starts singing
despite its leaded larynx. Don’t
say miracle when butterflies
break from a death-gaped skull,
rout the sky, and scatter.

Source: Poetry (November 2013).


This poem originally appeared in the November 2013 issue of Poetry magazine

November 2013
 Phillip B. Williams


Phillip B. Williams was born in Chicago, Illinois. He is the author of the chapbooks Bruised Gospels (Arts in Bloom Inc., 2011), Burn (YesYes Books, 2013), and a forthcoming collection, Thief in the Interior (Alice James Books, 2016). Williams is a Cave Canem graduate and the poetry editor of the online journal Vinyl Poetry. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Callaloo, Kenyon Review Online, The Southern Review, Painted . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Death, Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life, War & Conflict

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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