Back to Issue Twenty-Eight.

only so many types of hunger you can pack onto an island before you’re surrounded

BY BERNARD FERGUSON
2019 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry
Previously appeared in Raleigh Review

 

i tell my cousin i am fortunate to be so far inland that i have to go searching for trouble from the water / but it won’t be long before he and everyone i love is swallowed by some closer threat of drowning / i tell him the oceans are only your friends until they become your most prominent enemy / when the shoreline comes licking at your toes and then grows hungry for more / but he is unfazed / he thinks there are sharper things lurking than the boil of a distant water / and he is telling me of how a child once mistook a woman waiting in traffic / as the enemy / and pressed the only kind of ice left on the island to her head / and then pulled the trigger / and he is also telling me of the young boy who sat in the back seat and watched / as his mother was made into a slow bloom of decay / and i have waded in enough darkness to know that if you hold a particular amount of grief in front of the eyes / any body can become untouchable by hope / and perhaps this is why my cousin is speaking of justice / and the lengths we must travel to hold it in our tired palms / of how he gifted a pack of cigarettes to one of the boys from around the block / and then walked / unflinching / into the undying summer / hoping to return later to a torrent of blood / and i know i have paid less for a smaller violence / and would sacrifice even more for the taste of a slow unfolding peace / and i know the flood swelling in my throat is at least a bit similar / to the flood pushing the ships back to shore / the flood and its own pair of young hands / growing even more desperate / as we speak

 

 

on humor

BY BERNARD FERGUSON
2019 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry
Previously appeared in Epiphany Magazine

 

yes / it is hilarious the way your company has given me wings tonight / a man once made a crescent moon of his afro while sliding his feet elegant / floating clean away from the jaws of a familiar agony / & it is him i conjure tonight as i make my stunning exit / i draw out my fleeing across a sidewalk / make a slow desert out of downtown chicago / & it is funny / my lips kissed the mouth of a glass & my blood blooming now / erasing what i know of pain / the laugh is always at the expense of someone who is not here / a face we cannot see while wrapped in the throes of a small & convenient joy / but gorgeous things must come with a cost / my mother named me beautiful only when the night was plump with the cracked fruit of something else / someone whose fortune did not arrive in time to be given my name / now each one of my years / funny / & perhaps this is not the best joke / but there it is / your lips rising into a brief smile / your eyes peering through the window & onto your porch / as if i was there / collecting years & stacking inches / sprouting / even if toward a wide & hungry mouth / the boy who was promised at least one breath & a hole / or two in his body & this is humor / a tale with a twist / the plot thickens & you were promised a good time / i want to tell more of the story / i do / but today the ground will part & press someone new into its belly / & i am exhausted from the knowing / there is a gun’s neck through a car window / fresh exits forced into his skin / new mouths hungry for air / & i am here too / the screen & its flicker blue across my cheeks / i watch a man with similar bones become the smallest graveyard / again & again / i watch until i learn to unname the joke when i see it / become a riot when anyone laughs

 

 

juxtaposition with foliage

BY BERNARD FERGUSON
2019 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry
Previously appeared in Nashville Review

 

there is a violent wind pouring down / closing in from some distant hill & so / i find the garden at the edge of the block / run my fingers through its soil now / & whisper a song as apology & it is exhausting / how we all admire death in our own ways but i want the filter / that makes the reds seem green again / & until then i walk the streets with my eyes close / i sleep during the drive through the vineyard / i have been tricked before & this time / i want to leave no different than when i came in / the world is on fire & you are eager for the photo / but what of the trees & their labor? / how each leaf is draped in a new hue & its edges / curled toward itself as if retreating / from the widening mouth of a small flame / & listen, when i say i am not fond of autumn / i am thinking mostly of my homies & how it seems / we only have one good season where the gold falls / just right around our necks / where we can leak across the park with our music loud / the type of niggas basking in safety & admiring a good oak / peer outside your glass now & tell me / of how it looks like you are dreaming / tell me about the children laughing & drowning / in dead leaves / large golden dust falling from their hair / & falling from their arms / & i will tell you about the dream / where my homies line the street / only to dance & bend / their bodies & bend / their knees until they drop & every night / when i close my eyes / they slip through my fingers / before hitting the ground & i plead then / just as plead to leaves / come back come back / come back

Bernard Ferguson (he/him) is a Bahamian immigrant poet, an MFA candidate at NYU, a Writers in the Public Schools fellow, and an Assistant Editor at Washington Square Review. He’s the winner of the 2019 Nâzım Hikmet Poetry Prize and has had work published or forthcoming in Winter Tangerine, Pinwheel, SLICE Magazine and the Best New Poets 2017 anthology, among others. He wants you to tell him about your wonder.

 

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