TWO POEMS

MAURISA THOMPSON

FAT MAN AND LITTLE BOY TAKE A SELFIE
IN SAN FRANCISCO

little boy drags his belly across the yellow grass, squeaks it
like a violin. arms out, pretends he is a ship or airplane
or a cloud. rolls over, wheezes. spits on a spit bug. rubs
the dirt in deep. the locals grit down their teeth, shake
their heads. these types. let their children run wild.

fat man ignores them. every time there’s a clean-up
he’s the one left holding the bag. but this city sets him
dreaming, the desolation razed, cleared out for
the deserving desires. he pats the concrete with one hand
squeezes oranges with the other until they implode. the juice slides.

little boy swims out thirty miles, clambers up the farallon cliffs,
plucks the seagulls’ feathers, drops cormorants from the sky.
smashes stones and eggs and things. kicks the forty-gallon
drums into the surf. depth charged, he can hear his own ocean
inside each shell.

fat man checks his watch. fifteen or forty-five?
this half-life technology. it’s july. he wants something
charbroiled. crisped skin softened by the flesh-steam
or something medium rare. he is a breast man, loves them
heated from the inside. lets the steak knife scratch and sing.

little boy pushes waves in front of him, pretending
little tsunamis. comes padding up the sand and glass.
three bullet holes in his chest. his footprints do not bleed.
can we live here? he asks, touches the new steel beams,
twists them to licorice.

we’ll come back says the fat man. the sun is rising
or setting on this almost-island, which is which. he pulls
little boy toward him by finned lapels, smashes
their cheeks together. a bright ping, a winch sliding.
a flash. their faces facing. all of the bayview photobombed
in the background.

.

ELEGY FOR A COLORED ALPHABET

my grandmother stands in a black and white
photograph, like a capital A or the number 1

in the bank’s basement, in the story she never told me
the bank owner holds out his hands, benevolent, and the women

accept the certificates, angle their eyes, trained and strange
disciples of what they already know how to do.

type: the quick brown fox
type: that summer in san francisco

Attorney Poole’s family moves in on cedro street–
a cross burns where they stay. my grandmother in the basement

types sharp w’s for winning, and windows
shattered. near the speed of speech.

your grandmother never used ‘bof of em,’ my father says.
words hold their thoughts in his mouth. or ‘ax’ for ask.

the city shrugs its symbols. shifts. sons and daughters of the klan
draw red lines. my grandmother writes from each new address

my father walks every street to school
my father jumped over

a moment lonely, another mother tongue
i only have one language; it is not mine. i was not there

but i think i know that look—when she had to type over
her x, the crossed t’s tight between her lips

and h for house
and hold back, her back a straight I

MAURISA THOMPSON was born and raised in San Francisco, and is a proud alum of June Jordan’s Poetry for the People. Her poetry appears or will be forthcoming in The Black Scholar, La Bloga, the El Tecolote Anthology, the award-winning A Feather Floating on the Water: Poems for Our Children, and were featured in The Haight-Ashbury Journal, for which she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is currently an MFA student at University of California, Riverside, where she is working on a collection that retraces African American experiences during the Great Migration specifically to San Francisco, inspired by her grandmother’s journey from New Orleans during WWII.