Randall Horton

Two Poems

To the Collective (We): What, If?

you don’t get out
what you put in—

can’t matter
if you believe—
what you believe?

what if this is
after the next life

& then what
do you love,

the struggle
or the self? didn’t

know the setup
until you got setup

against what light—
& again,

no one said
[the trick is to know the trick]
be the delusional
you can’t be— 

[freedom of the no longer spellbound]
out of the top hat
the rabbit came—

what if the house you built
resides in the big house
being built?

[believe in your own magic]
a 21st century figure
stripped of color
— no one said:

what if you don’t
get out the identity
you put in?

a work of fiction is real
& again—

what if I told you
it’s all a set up?


All You Gotta Do Is Listen

it coulda been
a day like today,

the colorism of a shout!
even the birds were afraid—

left to center the world slid—

form in the falling light: you
become object or abject other

so burn baby–burn in peril

[epochs echoing through ghost]

left to the center the world slid—
sideways through an alley

i heard it all!
a day like today:

a poster—
on the phone—a man
the woman pointing
a blur—
a marveler of time
traveling fast—

but morning was not promised
even the birds were afraid

it coulda been a day like to day
left to center the world slid
sideways through an alley—


Randall Horton is an assistant professor of English at the University of New Haven in Connecticut and the author of a memoir, Hook (Augury Books, 2016), winner of the Great Lakes College Association New Writers Award, and three poetry collections: Pitch Dark Anarchy (Triquarterly/Northwestern University Press, 2013), The Definition of Place (Main Street Rag, 2006) and The Lingua Franca of Ninth Street (Main Street Rag, 2009). He is the recipient of the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award, the Bea González Poetry Award, and a National Endowment of the Arts Literature Fellowship. Horton is a fellow of Cave Canem and a member of the Affrilachian Poets, and senior editor at Willow Books, an independent literary press he helped to found in 2006. To read more by this author: "For All Those Who Benefitted from Slaves and the So-Called Illegal Alien," Floricanto Issue, Vol. 13:1, Winter 2012; "Blues Birthed Into Go-Go," Langston Hughes Tribute Issue, Vol. 12:1, Winter 2011