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ROBERT LASHLEY.November 2022


ROBERT LASHLEY

Photo by Jeff Sirkin


 

THE MIGRATIONS AROUND SUNDAY ELDER MORNING SERVICE

A sound in the back, overdubbed in palms,

in pounds over muffles, ones over threes,

in splintered back sounds that hang in the air

above the faintness of cries above glass.

Someone’s crying Lord, come by here.

An echo at the end, it shadows

gold columns, stadium accoutrements,

stained windows whose slants

shadow the shearwaters going south.

Someone’s singing Lord, come by here.

A rumble of patterns amplifying witness

of backwoods hitting backwoods.

Someone’s singing Lord, come by here.

Oh Lord, come by here.

Their cross patterns rumble when the bishop calls

them to share in Sunday witness.

Oh Lord, come by here.

Cross patterns weave a hidden estuary

the pulse of both flight and exile

the toll of movement and sunless ends

decipherable to those who fly and holler

decipherable to unsettlers in temporal promised lands

made of painted straws.

Oh Lord, come by here.

Disruptors, their patterns call for home

among ice and isolations.

A circle among the straight pew lines

an endpoint in the wilderness.

Oh Lord, come by here.

 

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POLICE ACCOST HOMEBOY AT THE CHESTNUT BRIDGE TALKING TO HIS GRANDMOTHER ABOUT NEPSIS AND THE RESURRECTION

“It was the second day his father rested.

Disbelievers swept the city for witnesses.

Cocks crowed to the minute, loved ones hid

but could not part with any more blood.

In the second Passover, they could not sacrifice

for the hell of the absurd called judgment.

But the sisters rose and made a night of falcon wings.

And the wailing women turned into hawks

that transmogrified in howl the earth’s axis

that burned white hieroglyphs that flew over rocks

to make their cave enclosure sign.

And after their circle came and left

the son, upon his return, was swept

by cartographers masquerading as friends,

idolaters waving their wild cut palms

to block him from the arms of his mother.

Blocked from the heresies of Magdalene’s arms

the son kept his head on a swivel.

The father, again, turned his depravity to myth.

The son, once again, dreamed of his exit.”

 

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UNCLE MILTON AND AUNT HELEN BY THE OCEAN SHORES WIND HAVING A FISH FRY

(with a nod to specific words of Susan Ross, Sky Curtis, and Rebecca Hershey)

 

The elders flip their cooking bags

then bow their heads to the water.

The fish fry and the Boombox call

all tricksters and kinfolk coastal,

blissfully dripping new-old days

in the form of a new-old social.

The sea holds memory in shadow tags

that make myths out of new markers

and broadsides of old barges.

Brooks and sounds hold collisions in rivers

in all things wreathed in sea wracks

crisp edges blur conceits of gods

and those that call on them.

The elders are

the resolvers of the spices and the drums

the eyes that re-course accepted absurdities

afflicting turtles and the fishers

the counters to constructed sails

in swag that blasts to sea basins

the new tricksters that subvert in offers

of their takes and feed to nature.

Ghosts that slept through spices shake

their heads though the couple still offer.

The elders flip their cooking bags

then bow their heads to the water.

 

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PORTRAIT OF HOMEBOY CORNERED BY TITUS’S CRACKHEAD SONS AS HE IS TRYING TO GET HOME

The medium traps of yarn and fable

concoct the Smoking Sons.

In their pantomime of pleading, candor

becomes lethal

in their fried plots and indecipherable structure.

Plausibility by colonnade of guns

transcends all bluster

by 45’s and bulging eyeballs.

By 45th Street, and in unconcentric circles,

the old boys whine about Mother.

Bugged, they tell you she was a killer.

Bugged, they corner you and light their burners,

then ask if you just saw her

then tell you how the black man corrupted her

on the banks of the old James River

then tell you how pain made them smokers

on blocks of blue and blood-red wrath

then tell you their story transcended the writer’s

and how he slurred their father,

and how he made them monsters.

(They tell you this while blocking your path).

Hold your mouth, Homeboy, at their guns

and their smoking royal visions.

Hold your tears, Homeboy, when they complain

of disbelieving New England witches

of havoc through woods in Southern Nights

and police that took care of their snitches.

Inscrutable madness is divinest street sense

for junkie ghosts wanting absolution.

Hold your mouth, Homeboy, then run, run.

The tar that held your kinfolks

is the tar that still holds their dope.

Hold your mouth with old grins and lies.

Live to speak honestly on other days.

Leave old boys to their violent reveries

or they’ll catch, kill, and rewrite you.

 

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MRS. MIRIAM AND UNCLE MOE: 7 A.M.

“Love, dear Love, you are the Yellow to my Blue.

All that lives and grows here makes a space for us.

All that is between us builds and spins-

’til all burdens and boulders are something bearable.

In our margins, one voice comes from all voices.

In our sentences, shared disintegrations

synthesize and cohere in fleeting moments.

In our responses, joy and anguish’s currents

take in all sense of madness and lucidity,

take in all solace, serenity, and sorrows

(the elements and firmament and feeling).

Together we take them and strip them of agonies.”

“Moses and Miriam quit your fooling around downstairs.

Jesus Christ, not when the boy’s eating.”

 

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ROBERT LASHLEY


Robert Lashley
is a 2016 Jack Straw Fellow, Artist Trust Fellow, and nominee for a Stranger Genius Award. He has had work published in The Seattle Review of Books, NAILED, Poetry Northwest, McSweeney’s, and The Cascadia Review, and his poetry was also featured in such anthologies as Many Trails to The Summit, Foot Bridge Above The Falls, Get Lit, Make It True, and It Was Written. In 2019, Entropy Magazine named his first collection, The Homeboy Songs, one of the 25 essential books to come out of the Seattle area. His most recent collection, Green River Valley, was published in June 2021.

 

To download a printable PDF version of this page, click here.

 

 

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November 2022.ROBERT LASHLEY