Carp Poem



After I have parked below the spray paint caked in the granite

grooves of the Fredrick Douglass Middle School sign


where men and women sized children loiter like shadows

draped in the outsized denim, jerseys, bangles, braids, and boots


that mean I am no longer young, after I have made my way

to the New Orleans Parish Jail down the block


where the black prison guard wearing the same weariness

my prison guard father wears buzzes me in,


I follow his pistol and shield along each corridor trying not to look

at the black men boxed and bunked around me


until I reach the tiny classroom where two dozen black boys are

dressed in jumpsuits orange as the pond full of carp I saw once in Japan,


so many fat snaggle-toothed fish ganged in and lurching for food

that a lightweight tourist could have crossed the pond on their backs


so long as he had tiny rice balls or bread to drop into the water

below his footsteps which Iím thinking is how Jesus must have walked


on the lake that day, the crackers and wafer crumbs falling

from the folds of his robe, and how maybe it was the one fish


so hungry it leapt up his sleeve that he later miraculously changed

into a narrow loaf of bread, something that could stick to a believerís ribs,


and donít get me wrong, Iím a believer too, in the power of food at least,

having seen a footbridge of carp packed gill to gill, packed tighter


than a room of boy prisoners waiting to talk poetry with a young black poet,

packed so close they might have eaten each other had there been nothing else to eat.







Terrance Hayes is the author of Hip Logic (Penguin 2002) and Muscular Music (Tia Chucha Press, 1999) and has been the recipient of many honors and awards including a Whiting Writers Award, the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, a National Poetry Series award, a Pushcart Prize, a Best American Poetry selection, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. Wind in a Box, his third book is forthcoming from Penguin in the Spring of 2006. He is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Carnegie Mellon University and lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with his family.






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