Three Poems by Herman Beavers
Featured on Life As Activism
Outhouse Blues #1
Accounts coming due, enunciated in
The mumble of feet. Coathangers,
The electric eye of catechesis.
Populism blushes in a frenzy
Of bared teeth, biceps swelling
With the ripple of Confederate flags.
Manacled in a pageant of
Disconsolate shotguns, the echo of
Self-confident dice, the public figures.
Amputation kin to the succulence of Crow.
Outhouse Blues #2
Everywhere there were signs of ruin
there were also signals of relief,
horror padded into the room like a thief,
familiar with the surroundings of kin.
Minus her blindfold, Justice makes a tight fist;
the scales set aside in a rush of white rage.
Have we entered a new age?
Or traveled back to a time people missed
when they saw Twelve Years a Slave?
Forget about the news, minstrelsy’s the new rave.
Outhouse Blues # 3
Once speech fell into a tight orbit around pith,
the people lost all interest in the sky. Not
right away, slowly, their attention water
leaking from a tiny crack in a cup. And when
words entered rooms once locked and forgotten,
when a vocabulary of damage danced
on the tongue, sugar laced with a toxin brighter
than desert sunlight, some believed they’d come home
from a war mangled by a cease fire imposed on
combatants in love with their Kalishnakovs,
anxious they would miss their chance to make each round
proof necessary words always hit the mark.
Herman Beavers is Professor of English and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He teaches courses in 20th Century African American literature and poetry writing. Most recently, he has published essays on Charles Johnson, Toni Morrison, August Wilson, Richard Wright, and Ralph Ellison. His most recent poems have appeared in The Langston Hughes Colloquy, MELUS, Versadelphia, Cleaver Magazine, The American Arts Quarterly and been anthologized in The 2014 Anthology of Featured Poets and Obsession: Sestinas for the Twenty-First Century. His scholarly monograph, Geography and the Political Imaginary in the Novels of Toni Morrison is forthcoming from Palgrave McMillan in 2017 and his chapbook, Obsidian Blues is forthcoming from Agape Editions, as part of the Morning House Chapbook Series for 2017. He serves as an advisory editor for The African American Review, The Black Scholar, and Modern Fiction Studies.
Image credit: “Up House Down” by Alan Greenberg, 1996; Abington Arts Center Sculpture Garden
Silver gelatin print by Karen Rile, 1997