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"Stone Dove", "Condensation as Bullet", & "Ode To Her PJs" by Joshua Merchant

Stone Dove

the first time I read about the bird and the cage

it sung herself out of I waited to hear something

award winning – the audacity of youth can pick

apart bread to feed them at the lake and kill them

with a purse at the bus stop with the same hand.

I was never allowed to bring pets in the house, which

is what I called a jar of rollie pollies and grass, or a

water bottle with a gold fish or a lizard tossed

to the dark of a bin of plastic men.

the first time a man feeds me through his grape-

vine I choke on the seeds in his backyard. we didn’t

belong indoors and for a moment there was freedom

in that – the choice to be disgusted before the

self-induced plucking. I always wanted to smile

for those born outside, boys like me were raised

to strip and called something else entirely. by the

time I was kept I wanted to die with or without

him in his room. by the time I was freed every drink

tasted spiteful. every bath an exoskeleton frozen

by the sun, every reflection nested in the corners

of my ears chirping a negro’s anthem- national only

if you know them by name. I say I don’t play like that

and a feather spirals in my direction in search

of this life I was told to get a while back.

Condensation as Bullet

the house points towards the sky

I grew up in, while falling apart

is now to speak with your jaw bursting; how

expensive to live. a cloud becomes a dream.

Ode To Her PJs

you probably didn’t know her. heard her

name on the intercom every morning. looks

like she’ll beat your ass. is actually

a sweetheart. probably never spoke

until that one fight during lunch.

couldn’t spit game at her

for she was the mouth

straw and paper ball.

didn’t laugh at your jokes

cause wasn’t shit funny.

didn’t know she was bad

till the dance. was hilarious.

hopped fences. didn’t raise

her hand a lot but silenced

the whole class when the grades

were posted. posted by the staircase

with her girls. posted at the bus stop

alone. forgot her backpack. would lend

you a pencil. always carried a book.

pajama day was when she said it was.


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