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Two Poems by Kenyatta Dorey Graves: Remnants and New Year After It’s Done


Hours after your last leaving
I resisted moving dishes to the sink.
I watched remnants.
Even cubes of ice
seemed passively resigned
to conformity in a glass,
and all that fucking mingling.

Minutes melted, mocked me.
Sleeper film and quiet cafes—
pieces of pleasure
in cities that pretended, disavowed
the everywhere-averted eyes
when obviously black men
clasped hands.

Seconds before I gave up
you counted the eighty-seven days
of unemployment.
An exclusivity became
the luxury we decided to forgo.
Without debate, it seemed
possessing was unwise, gaudy.

But perhaps the tastelessness
was loving you on a budget,
expecting I had (self-)discipline?
Brothers we knew together
but met very separately
envied our nonchalance.
They think we treasured that.

A pity, really—
this, the last leftover emotion
before the curtain called,
the docent stopped speaking,
the check came.
Hours after your last leaving—
before our time blended to a blur.
Kenyatta Dorey Graves
22 May 2010

New Years After It's Done 


This new year a kitchen
shares half-expected scents—
black-eyed peas and greens,
that salty bread you bake up
with creamed corn and peppers.
A glazed ham and peach cobbler
suggest a celebration,
or once-a-year family in the next room.
Standing on the twice-mopped floor
you pull one highball glass from the cabinet.
It lands louder on the counter
than you intended in reflection.
Indeed, none of this you intended.
Outside the house, a party maybe,
noises from people gathering
to come, or to go.


You can hear the approach
before there is drumming on the screen door—
footfalls in the front yard,
deliberate heels of a childless woman
tapping the concrete on the carport,
a hot car engine told to stop
in the gravel driveway.
It’s ear-language,
a phenomenology
of sand spurs, butter beans,
funeral rites,
deacons huddled for a nip
out by the furthest pine
from the vestibule—
some of what you needed
those trips to your Aunt’s taught
when you were a child.


Where in the closets and back bedrooms
did you set down pictures and quilts,
jarred green pickle and stew tomatoes,
the literal country touchpoints
that should have triggered
discernment, a see-coming
consciousness, that what’s-this
you been knowing, gone ignored?
How prescient the inferences
in withering weekending,
reduced romance,
the unacknowledged chill
on a given glass of wine.


If it’s two black men
sit-sipping on the good sofa,
the living rooms are trial
and inescapable error.
Sankofa unavailable, as seasons
crawl across your horizons
for the genuine first time.
Examples never emerged
from neighborhood gossip—
no family parables,
no lessons you get from honeymoons,
no explanations heard in-youth,
nothing to explain why a grayed cousin,
a bachelor, wasn’t the marrying kind.

But you remember his friend’s smile,
an earring,
and that he only told you his secret—
the cobbler crust of his,
the one lionized in family reunion lore,
was an intersection of crumbled ginger snaps,
powdered Chinese five spice,
and sweet, soft, sweet, soft butter.
Kenyatta Dorey Graves
31 December 2014

This post first appeared on Free Black Space, please read the originial post: here

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Two Poems by Kenyatta Dorey Graves: Remnants and New Year After It’s Done


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