Poem in descant

The wonderful new issue of descant is here. In it is a poem I first wrote in a workshop with Art Smith, who recently passed away. I revised the poem with renewed faith after hearing Nikki Giovanni mention redlining as a possible subject of poetry.

This poem, “Roller-Skating in a Redlined Neighborhood,” opens:

Eva whizzed down a church
handicap ramp and slapped

side-view mirrors of parked
cars. I leaned forward, going

backwards, onto red rubber
knobs bolted to my toes.

Like erasers, they rubbed off
in bits. Eva’s home was close.

Mine was behind a tongue
of tires—commuter traffic—

stuttering S where the avenue
bent. It stared, open-shuttered,

at the end of Eva’s street.
She said when her father

came back from Vietnam,
she looked into his coffin

and told him to get up.
I said, “That’s so sad”—

but she told me, “No. I didn’t
understand then.” My empty

house stared at no one
in particular. Eva’s step-dad,

a parole-officer, had prison
one step back in his voice…”

Thank you, editors at descant, for giving this poem a home. Thank you too Art Smith in memory and Nikki Giovanni.