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Lord and Chariot

I say the dead done caught me in a special knot
   and lured, and dragged me to the interior.
I say his face is strange here, a moment cruel
   but not without its silk, its earned sadness.
He asks me to touch it, so I touch it. No light
   can blossom here I know, as my bones know.

                                   · ·

Why ask me who I am. Who really knows
   the place of my future? I'm his, or I'm not—
I'm black, or black was made me. The light
   turns the cane a wanted color. I walk its interior.
There are only grasses here, only sadness.
   I pick one. I tear it. I think to be free is to be cruel.

                                   · ·

He says the dead are versions of himself: little ulcers,
   little cruel insurgencies. He says, Know
that I'm master here, my boy, my little sadness.
   There is no riot. (Riot.) Or fear. (Fear.) Bought, knotted,
I'm the boy in the cane field that's his, the air or
   I'm his whip that stirred the air, scarred the light.

                                   · ·

My back is the touch of violence. Like light,
   my blood trills. I kneel. I ooze. Cruel
underworld, I freeze in your interior—
   Though I'm called queen. I lie at his waist. I know
the true color of his loved-on skin. I say it's white, not
   purity. I say that my strength is my sadness.

                                   · ·

To be free, I think, like him, is a sadness—
   Nothing at all. But to be bold, to light
a panic, to tear a cage of cane by blade is not
   freedom, either. The cane grows back. Cruel
Can't you see it's the one word I know? Even my bones know
   this language, and moan it deep in their interior.

                                   · ·

I say the dead done left me, stranded, at the interior,
   which is this stranger's face, his sprawling sadness.
I say any blade in my hand is just my hand, and I know
   its weight exactly, the lift of its bite. O light:
sweet molestation in the fields. One lord. One chariot. Cruel
   silk, I'm a boy in love. Let the dead, their dead.

Rickey Laurentiis

The Kenyon Review

Summer 2014

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