For the City that Nearly Broke Me

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)
More Poems by Reginald Dwayne Betts