Poetry Suite by Robert Lashley

Editor Carrie Ivy, Poetry, November 11th, 2015

"A tossed salad is not a metaphor but a dish up on the floor..."

foggy trees poems by robert lashley


Gullah Elders, in the Water, Processing a Shootout


Reflection, on the lake
is a ripple that eats
then spits out an outline of the woods.
The women in black dip their old tambourines
then blur away from it.
The old men tie their suits into knots
then blur away from it
The people join and move their hands
To deny his name in the cold.
………………“The water spirit is not mother.”
…………“The water spirit will not bring us home.”

They wash and plead the blood in ice
and cry power in the dense of the darkness.
…………“the water spirit will not bring us home”
They fill the mass around the twinkling lights
with remembered layers of sound.
Hums turn to shouts and chants rewoven
into memory more ancient than the ear.
…………“The water spirit will not bring us home”

Frogs jump a beat back from their hand claps.
Night bugs swarm but cannot trace steps
of shadows and spirits in the water.
The juba clap overrides the memory
of sirens and funeral pyres.
The gun shot at night is the eleventh plague
so they part this iteration of the sea.
……………...“the water spirit is not mother”
…………“The water spirit will not bring us home”

+ + +

Them Dawgs That Burnt Uncle Moe’s Poetry Papers


Fragments of masterworks—
years worth of theories—
failures intertwined
with a million unsung triumph
disappear as they disappear.
The new death-by-fire
of thousand interlinked cites
is magnified by kindles and sparks.

In this set trip, erasure
has a conclave in smoke.
The new breed of hustlers
on the grind and the take
have no traditions save dollar law—
have no heirloom outside the OGs’ jaws
and the abyss that his hunger feeds.

Yet, they blow and burn, already just paper.
Brer rabbit: long strangled along the river.
The fox: long mummifed
and laid to by a thousand altars
of fathers who look like Stagger Lee.
The OGs know what the griot-boys can’t see
in emblems passed as thorns.

Yet on the corner, the flame has no parentage.
It asks no question of ancestry and heritage
or anything except immediate fact.
It judges in extremis—a severe final act—
then leaves every organ to its ash.

+ + +

Fresh-Out OG Remakes a Mauled Book Nook


Here, wisdom has no clocks.
The strength of street knowledge
has no colors or tracks
and the ankh has no price
in his protectorate of steel.
A cast concrete steeple
is fixed toward the east,
a structure rebuilt from a blood dream.

Outside, all that has been undone.
Inside, notebooks and sheets.
Warnings and casings from recycled streets
are defied in irons and casts.
A new casket dries in the sun and the shade
and his grandbabies will be going to school.

The prayers of the fresh-out OG builder.
Are as untranslatable as his hand signs
They do not judge or gage a disaster’s action.
They are kneels and codes in creation and chaos,
In fire-steeple metal and matter blocks.
In red scarf redemptions of the ash and the dust
and morning lunchbox futures.

+ + +

L.L., a Mile From Castaways Bar and Grille, After One of My Breakdowns


The wave tries to pull us
over the neon of her tattoo.
The wave tries to pull us
but she laughs at it.

The beach shack comes together—
then melts—then comes together again—
then melts in the water that burns me,
fusions of an unholy parentage.
Insides mutate as an image is not an image
and reflexes dream of the sea.

………..A tossed salad is not a metaphor.
………..A tossed salad is not a metaphor
…………………but a dish up on the floor.
………..A tossed salad is not a metaphor
…………………but a dish upon the floor
………..but the ground unto the sea is boiling.

“We cannot run to rock, love,
for the rock has never hid us.
We cannot run to the river
for its surplus of skeletons,
but let us lay down at the sea.
We cannot outrun death
but let death outrun us.
Let it stir us in the conceit of the inlet.
Let it act for, let us be at the precipice
we need as we need now.
Let the great world spin, sugar.
Let the skylines flip,
Let the world be disjointed
as I fling my hair.
Let everything but us seem human error
Outside the gate of our arms.”

The marshes decorate themselves around us.
They feather her hair and the pearls of my sweat.
They migrate from the confines of file and phylum
for the chance to lay right beside us.

“My love, let us cut across the shoreline.
Let us silhouette the ebbs,
the flora and fauna.
Let us defy the defining lines
………..with the flick of our hips.
Let us make the currents our jesters
Let us stem and remake the median
………..that is ours and ours alone.”

The wave tries to pull us
over the neon of her breast.
The wave tries to pull us
but she laughs at it.

+ + +

Header image courtesy of Alyssa Monks. To view a gallery of her painting at NAILED, go here.

robert lashley poet writerRobert Lashley is the author of The Homeboy Songs (Small Doggies Press, 2014). A semi finalist for the PEN/Rosenthal fellowship, Lashley has had poems and essays published in such Journals as Feminete, No Regrets, NAILED, and Your Hands, Your Mouth. His work was also featured in Many Trails To The Summit, an anthology of Northwest form and Lyric poetry. To quote James Baldwin, he wants to be an honest man and a good writer.


Carrie Ivy

Carrie Ivy (formerly Carrie Seitzinger) is Editor-in-Cheif and Co-Publisher of NAILED. She is the author of the book, Fall Ill Medicine, which was named a 2013 Finalist for the Oregon Book Award. Ivy is also Co-Publisher of Small Doggies Press.