Sunday, December 23, 2018

Sooner Than I Thought....Shan Spradlin!

It's been a while since I've updated this site.  Hope you've been enjoying Avis D. Matthews' fall poems.  Tonight I'd like to post Shan Spradlin's poems.  You may remember him from last year:
Two of his poems won honorable mentions in my last batch of contests.
Here are some new poems by Shan!

The Top Two Steps 

Today the sun plastered the
Skin like asphalt filling 
Potholes on the corner of 82nd
And Central. By nightfall the sidewalks
Smelled of dive bar burgers 
and happy hour. Two
People walk by holding shadowy hands.
They could have been strangers two
Hours earlier.  I slip across the street before the
Crosswalk  so I can feel the silk spray 
From the concrete fountain chase 
Invisible droplets over my skin. A
Sunday's paper lays undisturbed 
 across a deserted rod-iron  bench. There are 
Still a lot of lights on in the old hotel 
Towers. Twin brothers sit on the top steps
Smoking cigars and drinking vodka from a 
A brown bag. They still remember the night 
I stopped. We all set elbows 
Distance from a bottle of truth and 
Played spades on the front door mat. They told me 
There’s an old tunnel underneath the 
Hotel and before it collapsed and the hotel turned into 
Public housing, President Eisenhower stayed there. Now 
Everybody stays there. 


Her naked shadow stripped 
The moonlight down to fettered silk.
She touched through the darkness 
With a transcendent plea 
Her delicate breasts pushed air
From my pounding lungs. 
Her deep kiss left me stolen 
Her voice  held the mysteries of generations.
Her feet were callous on my shin. Rough
To the bone. Skin moist from sweat glistened 
Tears of children while her 
Tongue tasted of bitter redemption. 
She smelled of hand-me-downs  and sorghum
I ran my fingertips along the scars on her back. 
I kissed the knees bent down in the dirt. 
I tried to wipe away the tear stains , but 
My white cloth couldn’t reach the pores. My scars
Disappeared into my tender skin. I couldn’t speak
The words that spilled from her lips. I wanted 
To tell her story but to do so was 
Cutting out her tongue. 

Photograph by Joey Zanotti, 2017

The Length of a Word

What is the length of a Word?
Is it simply the number of letters 
Placed parallel one to another on  
A scribbled pad . Ruled paper. Painted on
Subway walls. A lover's note tucked in a pocket-
What is the length of a Word? 
Is it measured by the interpretation
Of a kiss. Is it caught up in December’s
Chilling breath. Or the tears that escape the 
Silence when all of life has spoken. Can it be 
Stretched around the lonely embrace of an
Umbrella. Is it as distant as a palm print
On a downtown railway window. 
What is the length of a Word -
Is it the sum of the entire conversation.
 Is the length of the word a secret we hear
In the dark and wait for in the sun. Is it a mixture
Of all we say, hear, and feel. What is the length ?
A word can travel through the heavens, 
Introduce  strangers, ring phones, un-wrinkle  hearts,
 Connect opposite poles. Promote love. A word
Can shake hands. Sign its name. The length 
of a Word Is a measurement - the 
Consciousness of the mind. The
Conviction that squeezes the air
From our bones. It is the Cicadas 
In our ears introducing spring.
What is the length of Eternity-
One unspoken word .

I don't think that "The Two Steps" takes place in Paris, but I thought I'd start off with the late Jerry Gonzalez' version of "Parisian Thoroughfare":

At one point, Jerry Gonzalez and the Fort Apache Band did a tribute to Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, the group that fuels my grading, especially at crunch time.  Here is a song from that album:


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