(For Melani N. Douglas, Rachel Eliza Griffiths & Fred Joiner)

By Truth Thomas


At the American Poetry Museum

on Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue

Southeast, on a snow plow rumbling

night, art wanders in off the street

to hold its own hand, like a dazed

tornado survivor, and looks around

as if in search of missing kin who

never made it to the storm cellar.

Pictures and poets greet it at the door

that opens and closes like a heart valve

made of glass.  Pictures and poets

invite it in to sit, as words catch fire

like logs to thaw the air. But there is

no politeness in the sitting of art—no

turning of its cell phone completely

off. Even as elegant F Stop hips

arrest, verses stalk with eye shadow,

leopard skinned stilettos climb up

stanza trees and pounce, art will not

be still. It will not “be good.”  It will

interrupt you when you are speaking

and not say “excuse me.”  It will duck

inside your door and eat up all your

cookies because it is hungry.  It is

always hungry—especially here in

Anacostia’s abandoned mouth—in

Anacostia, where rats still bitch slap

gentrified poodles.  Tell them Basquiat—

tell them Vincent’s ear, what fires can

be controlled, what blazes cannot.

Speak water in this crowd before

Adam’s apples on microphones take

their final swallows, and let them

know, “art is a siren without an off

switch.”  Even in the company of its

twin, there is no sedative in family

ties.  It seeks attention like every

ambulance passing, attempts to win

a shouting match in the mirror,

urinates a smiley face in snow just

outside of gallery shine, assaults our

noses like 20 skunks with stomach

trouble. All of this it does, because it

has to—because we force it to—

because here, astride our cushions of

refreshment, walls of polished frames,

short of its gang fight of police lights,

we might forget it’s still the living,

needful, thing.




Truth Thomas is a singer, songwriter, and poet, born in Knoxville, Tennessee, raised in Washington, DC. He is the author of three collections of poetry: Party of Black (Flipped Eye/Mouthmark Press, 2006), A Day of Presence (Flipped Eye Publishing, 2008), and Bottle of Life (Flipped Eye Publishing, 2010). His fourth book, Speak Water, is scheduled for publication in the fall of 2011. He serves on editorial boards of both the Tidal Basin Review, and the Little Patuxent Review. Some of his work has appeared in: The Progressive, Quiddity Literary Journal, and The 100 Best African American Poems (edited by Nikki Giovanni).


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