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Kevin Powell

All poems appear in Kevin's poetry book No Sleep Till Brooklyn


Mother, have I told you
That you are the first woman
I ever fell in love with, that what
I’ve always wanted in life is to hear
You say you love me, too?

love/a many splintered thing

for Karla P.

i have this need to feel you
make love out of the sweat
itching our palms give
you to your mother so that she
can give birth to you create an
ocean where love sleeps peacefully
eat out of the same bed we flesh

September 11th

Might it be, as my mother said to me on this ugly, sinful day,
That the world is on its last go-round?
Hijacked wild birds strip the sky of its innocent morning breath
Steel towers crumple like playing cards on an uneven metal table
Unrehearsed screams we dare not hear leap from windows
Into the open, bottomless palms of God
I cannot stand to watch life reduce
Itself to powdery dust and soot lathering the devil's inflamed mouth

come sunday

come sunday
this god that goddess
and these ancestors
will knock the earth upside down
and loose the devil from his space shuttle
pop a hole in the boy in the plastic bubble
and dream a heaven
where we won’t have to wait until
the other side of yesterday
to open our judgment letters


for Aishah Shahidah Simmons

Will us boys ever learn that power
can't be pulled from the meat of our third leg
like the last taste of malt liquor sucked from the
bottom of a bottle? Will we ever cease to find
our torsos slow-dragging with death, our dance
a series of grenades aimed at the bellies of our
mothers' daughters? Will us boys ever break ranks
with the devil, his bible telling us it is mad cool
to rape women because the master does it, and
don't we, too, yearn to be masters?

Haiku 4 Badu

like billie you are
a field hand picking strange fruits
from those dead tree limbs

Saturday, March 7, 1998


inspired by the art of Radcliffe Bailey

I remember when ma use to take me to the
barbershop when I was little
we ain’t had no money so we only
went but once a month
ma would tell the barber to cut it
real close ‘cuz this haircut need to
last awhile   seem like every other
boy in the neighborhood had a
mess of hair up on his head

Reality Check

For Kurt Cobain

i hate myself and want to die
i can hear you saying that now
the words like gunshots blasted into
the skin silencing the nightmares of a
generation we are not an x or twenty-

Jersey City

inspired by Richard Wright

It was at 116 Bergen Avenue, in a cluttered first-floor apartment at the back of the building, that Jersey City, where I was born and where I would spend the first eighteen years of my life, began to disrobe itself, fascinating me, annoying me, and tempting me simultaneously. Each event, each moment, outside and indoors, I held onto tightly, afraid that if I let go, then that event, that moment, would be gone forever:


I am
My lawd
On top of this roof
Can't nobody hear my cry
I said
Here I am my lawd
On top of this roof
Can't nobody hear my cry
My lawd
I am thirsty

Not for Nothing

I cannot erase all the women I’ve been with
nor can I firebomb the past and bang the ashes into my grandmother’s land
but I do understand
when you say
‘Men are just that way’
I do not want to be ‘that way’—

for aunt cathy

life ain't never been promised to nobody
that's what grandma lottie used to say
and you
her youngest daughter
and youngest of six children
snuck into the city
on a greyhound bus
with my mother
and scraped the side of a boarding house for good luck

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