This work was featured in Issue 18:2, Spring 2017 — Cave Canem 20th Anniversary Issue

Katy Richey

Three Poems

Allies

In the corner bar, two half drunk
beers rest between what is said––
young life taken, distant city
filled with smoke––
and what is unsaid.

We have met here
for many heartbreaks,
but now I must ask,
not for concession
or sympathy, but for the glass
I’ve kept under my tongue.
Dear friend,
say Black.

We watch the same
broadcasts
and both say terrible,
injustice.
I cannot explain why
each boy feels personal.

Of course all lives––
every delicate, splendid,
worthy life––but just now
this quiet evening, can Black
be the only consideration,
the only whisper?
Say Black.

You know so much
of what is broken in me.
Has our love rendered me
colorless, faded my skin
to translucency?

See it now––
sand brown,
paper bag brown––
the everydayness
of it. Say its name,
Black.

We are comrades,
these many years,
but this silence is metal
around my neck.

Friend, sister,
for me, for us,
say Black.

 

Grief

Changing the water filter in the basement,
I notice it stuck to the back of the cylinder,

but when I go to fetch a wrench to stop
its awful dripping, I swear I almost trip

over it on the stairs, but dismiss it
as an aberration or my own shadow.

When I return, it’s moved to the edge
of the window, sprawled itself across the glass

like a web. As I bring the wrench back
to its home in the red bucket by the door

that leads to the garage, there it is again, huddled
in the corner next to the pliers & pair

of dirty gloves. & when I go to the kitchen
to make myself an omelet, again, there

in the carton with the eggs, sitting up
like white soldiers. Everywhere––

My favorite shirt, folded under the boat-neck
collar. In the third drawer of my desk, right there

on top of the Webster’s dictionary. In the foul-smelling,
overpriced meal the orange cat threw back up

on the rug. In that little click the radio makes
before coming on to play a pop song I’ve vaguely

heard, maybe in the drugstore or a friend’s
car. & where next?

At the bottom of the grocery bag?
Bursting from the red stalks

of the trumpet vine climbing the linked fence?
In my love’s slow breath of sleep? In the body

of the boy on the news hour who is spun
like a top & falls & the woman, cities away,
also in the street? Though I expected to see it there.

Now when I notice it out of the corner of my eye,
I give it a nod or a––hey.

Sometimes we sit together on the back steps,
listen to the traffic from the main road,
watch the twilight fade to dark.

 

Bullet, You

heavy-tongued breath pusher muscle-bellied line of brick
you ivy and nettle overgrown the linked fence rapid kick drum
pulse and rattle you shadow under the track bridge like aerosol
you basement stomp and blow trance-toned outbreak of resonance
you believe yourself a lover the body’s jolt and jerk passion requited
what could be horizon is ghost light what could be heartbeat
is beat devoured look how you cut noise out of the night you thief
of sound you overlord how you leave nothing only splinters
daylight the burgundy and echo

 

Katy Richey's work has appeared in Rattle, Cincinnati Review, Rhino, The Offing, and Full Moon on K Street: Poems about Washington DC. She received an honorable mention for t he Cave Canem Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the Tupelo Press Snowbound Chapbook Poetry Award. Richey has received fellowships from Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and Callaloo Creative Writing Workshops and is the recipient of a Fine Arts Work Center Walker Scholarship for Writers of Color and a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award. She hosts the Sunday Kind of Love reading series open mic at Busboys and Poets in Washington, DC, sponsored by Split This Rock Poetry Festival. To read more by this author: Katy Richey: Spring 2007 Katy Richey: Evolving City Issue