Skip to main content

Jeffery Renard Allen's Poetry


--for Elijah, my firstborn


Skin holds red host
to virulent world


Air supports the rare body

Self moves out to
                                     surface of skull
to probe danger-probable element

This I should tell

The glassed-in nursery rocks/out-of-tune choir,
tiny nude singers, each in her/his own plexiglass chariot

The mute colors of fresh arrival
Your coiled fists seeded knots of becoming
hiding some promise

Washed in the blood

Your mother pillowed up in her curtained
quarter of the disinfected room
the smell of clean work
the sheen of labor
proud and excessive female form

This too I should tell:
           Guniea, Ife, Jefe--some residual land
scape rehearsed on fabric
            a rocking porch under starlight storm 
            fierce listening
            springtime leaves on glossy branches
firm boundary line
or some athletic veil turning somersaults on taut laundry cord
                        on an up
curled wood shaving

           --and whatever else is traceable to these sources

No puffed-out winter birds
No jive buzzards or shucking crows
Beaked tribes or razored kin throwing shade

Keep them all away 

 Days after the storm
I trudge through a world
snug in a sleeve of snow
cramped and filthy sun
a van swaddled in white:
           Dios es Amor

Odd hand touches odd other,
both translucent with memory, backlit tissue, separate stills no larger than a thumbnail:


the crest and break of name
radiant waves
acoustical motion

I track glimpses of my father in a black forest where trees
serve as stand-in screens
hide and harbor

Twenty-five years (more) since last sighting
but his face retains its petal shape

(The imagined bird is fainter than the actual,
sought-for movement less substantial than sweat)

Mom says,
"The older you become, the more you look like your father"

Mom says,
"Whenever you open your mouth your father slips through"

Iron Man in my knuckle-headed elegance

Heir to a familiar repertoire of pulsing
           deeds, ever-expanding empire, your red universe--
my heart

December 21, 2000 – January 27, 2001