Carp Poem

Carp Poem

By Terrance Hayes

After I have parked below the spray paint caked in the granite
grooves of the Fredrick Douglass Middle School sign

where men and women sized children loiter like shadows
draped in the outsized denim, jerseys, bangles, braids, and boots

that mean I am no longer young, after I have made my way
to the New Orleans Parish Jail down the block

where the black prison guard wearing the same weariness
my prison guard father wears buzzes me in,

I follow his pistol and shield along each corridor trying not to look
at the black men boxed and bunked around me

until I reach the tiny classroom where two dozen black boys are
dressed in jumpsuits orange as the pond full of carp I saw once in Japan,

so many fat snaggle-toothed fish ganged in and lurching for food
that a lightweight tourist could have crossed the pond on their backs

so long as he had tiny rice balls or bread to drop into the water
below his footsteps which I’m thinking is how Jesus must have walked

on the lake that day, the crackers and wafer crumbs falling
from the folds of his robe, and how maybe it was the one fish

so hungry it leapt up his sleeve that he later miraculously changed
into a narrow loaf of bread, something that could stick to a believer’s ribs,

and don’t get me wrong, I’m a believer too, in the power of food at least,
having seen a footbridge of carp packed gill to gill, packed tighter

than a room of boy prisoners waiting to talk poetry with a young black poet,
packed so close they might have eaten each other had there been nothing else to eat.

(Published in the Konundrum Engine Literary Review)

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Published in: on October 2, 2009 at 6:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

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