Poem 1 ± World AIDS Day 2017

Vernita Hall
I Knew a Man

for Gregory

I knew a man
who could charm the coin from Charon’s hand
or Midas’s, too, squeeze lemonade from sand,
hula rings like Saturn, drum thunder like Jupiter
whenever he laughed, and he laughed some.

I knew a man
who could dance on the head of a pin
or the top of a bar. Around the pole he’d spin
like a compass needle. His word—true north.
He never called the shots—they begged to come.

This man, my friend,
could thread a needle with a baseball bat,
eclipse the sun, or wheedle cream from an alley cat.
Always top dog, the black elephant in the room,
he never took a back seat lest he throned it, Paul Bunyan-esque.

The man I knew
could spin a yarn like Rumpelstiltskin
or negotiate extra wishes from a jinn.
His laser eyes could weep a secret out from a stone.
He walked with Jesus upon the waters, two abreast.

Did you know my friend?
He was the father of invention—and a muthuh, too.
Switched the Grim Reaper gay, broke the back of convention.
He rose well-heeled, sprinkled motherwit like seed,
his tongue, oil-slick. He could listen through the tips of his toes.

When Gabriel sounds
that trumpet for the day of rest
New Orleans-style, he’ll strut at the head of the blessed,
arm-in-arm with Peter and Michael, too.
He’ll be leading the band, prompting them their cue,
this man I knew.


logoA Rosemont College MFA, Vernita Hall placed second in American Literary Review’s Creative Nonfiction Contest; was a finalist for the Cutthroat Nonfiction, Rita Dove, Paumanok, and Atlanta Review Poetry Awards; a semi-finalist in the Naugatuck River Review Narrative Poetry Contest and Ruminate’s VanderMey Nonfiction Prize. The Hitchhiking Robot Learns About Philadelphians won the 2016 Moonstone Chapbook Contest (judge Afaa Michael Weaver). She serves on the poetry review board of Philadelphia Stories. Poetry and essays appeared or are forthcoming in Atlanta Review, Philadelphia Stories, Referential, Mezzo Cammin, Whirlwind, Canary, African American Review, Snapdragon, Grayson Books anthology Forgotten Women, and five other anthologies.

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