Poetry Suite by Robert Lashley

Editor Carrie Ivy, Poetry, February 27th, 2014

For your garden, I will find you hot corner petals.

robert lashley poetry suite

Gangbanger Baptism, 1992

They are brought forth, the calf promptly fed,
in trays and painted plates of gold,
in their Sunday best, their carpet rolled
for those who snatched dowry, who left them, who fled.
And they anoint their feet holy, then body, then head
and wash clean their robes of red and of blue.
And the sons who are wary, the daughters who knew
the sins of inheritance, the theft of their bread,
sit outcast in meeting place, outcast in the pew
set forth from the baptized, the sorrowed, the few
beset by the forgiven, and the old story told,
sought a grace, and found only dread.

+ + +

In the Morning, Before Uncle Moe’s Special Friend Had to Leave

Through a crack
is never the best place to see her.
Through a crack, their window
is never a mirror. The time they keep
in their invisible hourglass
begins to fade with a car horn
and the deepness of a color
too complex for the letters that form blue.

On their bed sheets
are their moments
that I knew only in pictures.
Black and white photos
of jazz-jointed weekends
that lie over the clothes he fitted her,
lie over their pills,
a triplicate of bottles,
and unfinished projects
on the floor.


Stanzas. Jazz songs.
A hem in her grandson’s
first communion suit
that—in a fight—he tore.
The button’s in the shirt
her husband wore out
when she learned of the secretary
in Denver.
The half smoked reefer
that made her speak of the sea
when he caressed the gray
of her hair.


When he fastens her garter belt,
she speaks of their Packard
and the air in another life.

+ + +

The Gang House Garden Thief’s Love Ballad

For your garden, I will find you hot corner petals.
I will put them in my crown royal bag.
I will search past the weeds—the thickets—the nettles
—search past the Suckas and their impossible tags
and share with you my world in stems and colors
beyond reds and blues (those handkerchief flags).
I will give you my lavenders beyond the hard metals
in 45s, concrete, and faded doo rags
for your love creates me, and love never settles
for environment, so I work. I’ll pick them. I’ll snag.
For your garden, I will find you hot corner petals.
I will put them in my crown royal bag.

+ + +


Your son shermed to death in makeshift car.
His loss was felt (but yours was felt the more).
Don’t be a dad tonight, go to the bar.

His momma cries and prays to morning star.
She prays now that he reach celestial shore.
Your son, shermed to death in makeshift car.

Forgive us for not getting who you are,
but please forgive away from worship door.
Don’t be a dad tonight, go to the bar.

A girlfriend mourns a body burned to char,
embalmed in a butane threshing floor.
Your son, shermed to death in makeshift car.

A whole church grieves in ways you feel afar
but you don’t know the one they’re grieving for.
Don’t be a dad tonight, go to the bar.

Save the crying rap for the ripple jar,
the only brown thing you showed feeling for.
Your son, shermed to death in makeshift car.
Don’t be a dad tonight, go to the bar.

+ + +

If a Black Bird Moves as a Cop Grabs Your Crotch, Does it Really Make a Sound?

The black birds move—first down then up.
They move without asking them where or why
the unseen brings comfort only in

decoration of flight—past the rim—the top
of the backboard—above the stripes that lie
on the side of his shoulders as he lines

you to get a collar. They move through
the blue and the space in the sky without
halt or identification. They move

to a new home through fluff doors of white
without arrested, inorganic
distractions. They move to a range free from

gunshot or tracker away from city blocks—
Free, they move away: flight is their cycle.
Their order and form—their proper procedure

their cover in the day as imagination
and movement lay frightful, so frightful below.

+ + +

Read the NAILED interview with Robert Lashley here.

robert lashley poetry suiteRobert Lashley is the author The Homeboy Songs (forthcoming on Small Doggies Press, 2014). A semi finalist for the PEN/Rosenthal fellowship, Lashley has had poems published in such Journals as Feminete, No Regrets, 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.