Welcome to TRUCK in April. I’m Kate Schapira, and for my guest-editing stint I decided to go looking -- through journals, catalogues, organizations’ rosters, reviews -- for poets whose work I loved but hadn’t previously been familiar with. There are so many people out there doing such good writing, and it’s easy to stay with the people and publications that are most familiar. I wanted to get educated. Some of these poets were just names to me before I started looking; others were entirely new discoveries. Once I started investigating I was repaid a thousandfold.
To share the results of my search with you, I’m going to post a poem (occasionally two) by a different poet each day in April, along with links to more work by that poet. You may say to yourself as you scroll down, “Kate, you really hadn’t read these people?” To which I can only reply: I have now. And I will from now on.
Today’s poet, Metta Sáma, is so good that I couldn’t pick one poem; I had to pick two. Enjoy her work and come back tomorrow for tomorrow's poet.
Dear striated syntax,
button, buckle, knot, strap.
Letters stumpeth me. Composition
me a viscid bitch. Leaves
rasp & orate frankly. Hungered
for fairytales to lull, the neighbor
howls. Lines & lines
of not. Bridges decapitate air,
the way Jane loved Dick, a dog,
and a mulberry bush. Compounded,
too many words will kill. Complex
compounded: a woman says the sky
is close enough to touch, but when I reach
for stratus, my hands graze pollen; therefore I wonder:
did Dick love Jane, or did the woman lie?
Syntactical outreach support, quiet. Corner yourself.
Dear grammar compressed,
I don't remember how to sight signs.
A man digs into ground,
releases smoke, grieves.
I place a comma behind his action,
a parenthesis around the voluble pain.
I only want to punctuate this properly.
x-x o-o y-y
The News Free Press
What Paul Johnson sat on that bench to discover, or
PARIS, TN: NEGRO SHOT FOR SITTING ON WHITES ONLY BENCH
1. Rumor had it, if you sat still long enough, a ladybug would sit on your lap, would tell small tales about you to you, would turn you back to you.
2. Not once, but half a dozen or more times, when Paul Johnson cut the courthouse lawn or masked the flower beds, when his hands became the smell his hands carried, he heard a particular branch sigh Negro, sit yo ass down.
3. Did that bench always crease aches, or was it resolved to hold the stress of what pains when pain pains white?
4. Word on the breeze: this bench is precisely in the location where the Eiffel Tower sits in that other Paris.
5. What must that 6 o’clock southernly breeze feel like right where the clouds hush the sun?
6. A rumor of crows once sat on that bench. But what did Paul know of that black?
7. Hell, it’s just a bench.
8. If 4, what were his chances of feeling free? of feeling? of free?
9. If 7, why no Negroes ever sit there?
10. What does a wooden bench on a watered, mowed lawn of the county courthouse mean? Whose back? Whose hands? Whose land? Whose tears?
What Paul Johnson did not sit on that bench to discover, or
PARIS, TN: NEGRO SHOT BY WHITE CONSTABLE FOR SITTING ON WHITES ONLY BENCH
10. Whose lead? Whose casing? Whose primer & rim & cordite?
9. What a man chooses is often how a man chooses to choose to be. . .
8. Courage :: rage :: rage :: freedom no
7. That bench is just a bench as that fountain is just a fountain as that counter is just itself.
6. Those crows visited him at the hospital, at the jail, arrived in the night as the night became the night; their backs, rumored swells.
5. A 6 o’clock breeze on a white’s only bench feels like first one bullet then 2.
4. Feels like a constant consonant standing over you. That shadow. That sudden eclipse. That hand struggling to down turn that dream: Paris is Paris is Paris is
3. And yes, that bench ached. Creaks of ache creak creak. Bang nigger nigger :: bang.
2. Sometimes a night-wedded hand holds the body better than a day-singed bench.
1. Rumor had it, a ladybug. A tree. A breeze. A rumor. A bench. A sign. Rage.
MORE WORK BY METTA SÁMA:
The Drunken Boat
“Extinguish me" first appeared in Pebble Lake Review
"The News Free Press" first appeared in Proud Flesh: New Afrikan Journal of Consciousness,(Issue 6) in a different version, as "10 things Paul Johnson sat on that bench to discover". PF was published on-line as PDF downloads, but is now subscription-based only, including archives.