From “Dead Man’s Hat”
We find ourselves surrounded by Stair-dwellers who stare at us with thirst. These are the worst of the forgotten: those who stop their shopping and stare out the window watching what we call society fall. Who knows what exactly they saw but they stared out the window and then at the stairwell with the sign that says EMERGENCY EXIT and said “You win” and then go in never to emerge again. They gather in All-in-One Department stores wanting something more and all they have is their well-developed calves and an always angular view of the world. “Should we eat them?” asks the Leader to his somewhat democratic clan. “Should have taken the elevator” Ruby says chastising my desire for exercise. I pass our shopping bags to my buddy and whisper “Go home,” then to the Leader “I will give you poem! Let my people go and I will give you poem. Their lives, our lives, my life for a poem.” They calculate the exchange rate and show my people the door. I offer my Hector-farewell. Ruby tells me to go to Hell then herself leaves. I leap upon a conference table stolen from Office Supplies, clear my throat to sing,
and with no idea where to start I simply have to begin:
Never did she cry.
Neither cut from the womb or starved in the crib
cheeks were always dry.
With broken toys and kisses with boys
who later knocked her down
she could only fret and frown.
With this the Leader looked bored, but his concubine mesmerized. We lock eyes:
Is it any surprise
that she packed her bags
with designer soon-to-be rags?
Wanting to keep mother close to heart
she stuck the needle in her chest
but this was just the start
then her arms her ankles her ears
but never were there tears. Once in the thigh
she let out a moan, but never did she cry.
With this the storm broke, and the Stair-dwellers ducked in fear. And I having no ending took this as a cue:
This was the sound as she tore
her clothes. Never never never never
silence will be no more.
In lightning and thunder and darkness
clouds she would yell Hear me hear me
hear me hear me but no rain ever fell.
“C’mon, let’s take the stairs.”
Quincy Scott Jones earned a bachelor’s degree from Brown University, a master’s degree from Temple University, and $100 once working as a supermarket clown. His work has been or is forthcoming in African American Review, Journal of Pan African Studies, Water~Stone Review, California Quarterly, Let Loose on the World: Celebrating Amiri Baraka at 75, and the anthology From Where We Sit: Black Writers Write Black Youth. Since 2006 he has taught “Poetry on Page and Stage,” a course exploring the idea of poetry as live performance as well as a performance on the page. With Nina Sharma Jones, he co-created the Nor’easter Exchange: a multicultural, multi-city reading series. His first book, The T-Bone Series, was published by Whirlwind Press.