Carlo T. Paul

Four Poems by Carlo T. Paul

Obama T-shirt; 2008

This would’ve eclipsed that punk move in ’79 Chicago.

Looking back now, it was the perfect day for a t-shirt:
deep in the pits of August, visiting east Texas, on our way
to see The George H.W. Bush Presidential Library.
Yes, everybody’s into politics, now. We strive to be
so polite, kiss all the babies and what not. Except me.
I was ready to march into that building like I was born
to rock and my shirt was the guitar-smashing solo.
Show me your worst tee and I’ll show you the last rebel
voice in your closet. Man, how cool would it have been
to feel a Texas flood of beer cans come at me, that day!
The deliberate punk I was showing off would’ve been
a score for the ages; with every security guard on duty
on damage control, for me, the brash knucklehead
strutting around with HOPE blaring across my chest.
I bet I could’ve gotten arrested for wearing it in there.
And probably the next execution, in Texas, y’all
if I didn’t have stage fright at the very last minute.


Oswald Decries his Low-Turnout Funeral

This is bullshit. Why can’t I get one minister
In all of Fort Worth to give me my last rites
Where are my pallbearers
Why isn’t every media outlet here

Who cares that they are burying a cop
And a Kennedy, today
This is disgraceful. After everything, please
My headstone can’t be left unfinished

Don’t just leave my last name on it
Like nobody knows what else to say about me
Don’t you realize who I am
Why is this any way to treat the first life

That was murdered on live TV
And who mourns for me
This whole world watches my death
But no one salutes?

Wayson R. Jones, “Throw Your Hands Up,” powdered graphite, acrylic medium, acrylic paint, oil stick on canvas, 18″ x 24″, 2013.

Stork Baby

Meet Marlon Paul: delivered out of the blue
by mailman, tucked into a thick bundle
of junk mail and dumped on me; without
a word or a note, one afternoon, a few years ago
a match to my home address and my last name.
He has since grown teeth into my family tree
like all tall tales. Trivial details make him limber:
grow legs, now his middle initial is “R” as in Richard
Or Robert? Really, it was only a matter of time
Before Marlon stretched himself into The World
Wide Web too, as living alongside me, for years.
Don’t take my word for it, Google him. Car lots
and pizzerias around the state invite him, now
to hang out, while strange calls from overseas ask
to say Hello. This is the reality of human cloning:
to make mortality look this easy, and then
try to get away with murder.


When (revisited)

after Elizabeth Alexander’s poem

In the early nineteen eighties, the young women
were chic; they orbited Earth, demanded romance
ran all-girl bands as Ms. Pac-man gobbled arcades.
Synthesizers begged them out to dance and like Ola Ray
in Thriller, had the coolest strut in Sassoon jeans.
Or wore cut-offs with striped socks pulled to the knees.
Before the Age of Thongs, they quoted: “The Men All Pause”
as they walked into the room. Before cell phones called
they wrote their home phone numbers in neon pink ink.
Before Striptease and Showgirls, it was all about Flash Dance
This was before the world could be seen through color contacts
when eating hotdogs was as ordinary as late-teen baby fat
And mirrors reflected raw smiles;
Before all the Girls Gone Wild



Carlo Toli Paul was born in Brooklyn, New York to Haitian parents. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park and was a Cave Canem fellow in 2000, 2001, and 2004. He lives in Gaithersburg, MD.