Reginald Harris

Two Poems

Unidentified Portrait, 1920

We stop for the picture-taking man,
wait for him to set up his background,
arrange the paper flowers and a chair,
all dressed up in our Sunday best:
her white robe of Communion,
the tie I save for funerals and weddings.

When she is grown, a Queen,
living in the world I dreamed for her
as Moses dreamed, staring across Jordan,
she may hold this in her hand,
think back on this dry town
small enough to fit inside a peanut’s shell,
or her father’s clotted tongue. I am

a melting sun. Look, already
there are shining towers in her eyes.


What I’m Telling You: Home

If I tell you I’m from Baltimore, the conversations’ over
turns immediately to “The Wire – True or false?” and
urban blight and Freddie Gray, which is fine as far as it goes
because (True) I know the stories the HBO series is based on, the house
I grew up in is now empty, boarded up, Freddie lived one neighborhood over
from mine, etc., etc., etc. but what I’m telling you is, hey:

there’s more to me than this, there are people behind statistics,
you miss the beauty of identical rows of houses, liquid summer nights, the sound
of hammers cracking crab claws in arrhythmic counterpoint to the O’s game on the box.

How tired we all are of being asked about Homicide and never about One on One,
or Roc. Ask how we made a life inside someone else’s punch line.


Winner of the 2012 Cave Canem / Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize for Autogeography (2013), Reginald Harris is Director of Library and Outreach Services for Poets House. A Pushcart Prize nominee and finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, his work has appeared in a variety of publications. Twitter: @rmharris To read more by this author: "Living Room," Langston Hughes Tribute Issue, Vol. 12:1, Winter 2011; "The Knockout," Museum Issue, Vol. 10:1, Winter 2009.