Lauren K. Alleyne

The Hoodie Stands Witness

For Trayvon Martin

 

I was built for bodies

like his, between boy and man,

sauntering in angles he couldn’t hold

but swung his limbs from, careful

cool in every step.

 

I can tell you the story of him,

unexceptional—

he put change and candy

into my pockets, the necessary

jangle of keys and cellphone

hushed in the sock of me.

 

I watched him from the soft pile

he made of me on the floor

of his messy adolescent room

where I lay beside his sneakers

and backpack.

He did his homework

with chat windows open;

white headphones hooked

him into some steady beat.

 

That day, he was thinking

of nothing in particular.

He was quiet in his skin;

tucked into the shade of me,

he was an easy embrace

until an old ancestral fear

lay its white shadow

across us like an omen.

 

I can tell you his many hairs

raised in warning beneath me;

his armpits funked me up

with terror. His saunter slipped

into a child’s unsteady totter

under the weight of a history

staggering behind him

mad with its own power.

 

He clung to me then, wholly

unmanned, a baby clutching

his blankey. He pulled me close

and I stroked his head, caressed

the napps he had brushed to waves

that morning. I felt him brace

his bones beneath me, his heart

a thousand beating drums.

 

The bullet ripped through us

like a bolt of metal lightning.

His blood, losing its purpose,

ran into me and I wished

we were truly a single body,

that I could have held

its rush and flow like a second,

sweaty skin. I can tell you

how his spirit slipped out—

like steam from cooling water

—slowly, fading by degrees,

until he stilled.

 

(first published in Difficult Fruit, Peepal Tree Press, 2014)

 

Talking to the Dead

After Marie Howe

 

The poet says it began as a letter

To her dead brother, the poem

Telling the last details of his life,

Until she heard his voice whispering

I know. And what she wants to say

Is that when we talk to the dead

We really mean to talk to anyone

Who will listen, who will let us tell

our suffering and make it a story

with a beginning, a middle—an end.

And maybe it is about audience,

About which attentive air will receive

Our insistences. All week, in the news

a dead boy’s face, his final screams

replayed. All week, the solemnity

and ceremony of Easter, the lilies

on my makeshift chapel trumpeting

their fragrant declarations. The stories

told over and over; their protagonists

dragged up to act out their dying

until we tire of our incomprehension,

the proofs we invent that cannot satisfy.

Because the question is always why?

and the answer is unreachable—

lodged outside the realm of the living.

Because only the dead can say I know.

(first published in Difficult Fruit, Peepal Tree Press, 2014)

 

Lauren K. Alleyne is the author of Difficult Fruit (Peepal Tree Press, 2014). She holds a Master of Fine Arts degree, and a graduate certificate in Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies from Cornell University, and an MA in English and Creative Writing from Iowa State University. Alleyne’s fiction, non-fiction, interviews and poetry have been widely published in journals and anthologies such as Women’s Studies Quarterly, Guernica, The Caribbean Writer, Black Arts Quarterly, The Cimarron Review, Crab Orchard Review, Gathering Ground, and Growing Up Girl, among others. Alleyne is a Cave Canem graduate, and is originally from Trinidad and Tobago. She is currently the Poet-in-Residence, and an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Dubuque in Dubuque, IA.