Four poems by Justin Hyde

eating chili with my father

two strangers
managing small talk
after decades of estrangement.
he tells me wasps
built a nest in his old wool air-force jacket
out in the garage. had to
throw it away.
but he cut the buttons off
and saved them.
i look up from the kitchen table
out the sliding glass doors
to the old blue garage.
i ask if he remembers twenty years ago
when i stood in there
fixing a flat tire on my bicycle.
he came up from behind
asked if i needed help. i told him
i never wanted his help
with anything
for the rest of my life.
i remember, he says, that was a hard boot
but i earned it.
i tell him i was wrong. i’ve had
so many things wrong in this life.
we’ve never hugged
or told each other i love you.
i lean over
and kiss his cheek.
he stiffens. but doesn’t
pull away.
____________

home-schooled

my father
tried to teach me
the value of a dollar

and hard work
but my mother
was a soft touch

a real mark

before the age of seven
i mastered
playing them off one another

they’d go
into the other room
yell under their breath

he’d throw his hands up
and go to the bar

i’d get
whatever i wanted
from mom
or
if she suddenly
sprouted a back-bone

i’d throw a fit
tell her i hated her
drive her to tears
and then get
what i wanted

those were my blue-prints
rawboned
nineteen
unleashed
on the kind-hearted women
of the upper
midwest.
____________

four degrees in iowa

the young man
walking down the sidewalk
pants-so-low
he has to hold them up
with his left hand

ass-cheeks
and white-underwear
in the bitter wind

happens to be black

my brain does not flash thug
or danger

i’ve got more solstice
than that

we pass each other

-eldridge cleaver
-malcom x
-hundreds of black men
who’ve come through the halfway house
on my mind

i know
you’re just trying to carve identity
stamp original swagger
into the ashes of a country
that stole everything else

but seriously

check yourself bro

there’s more creative ways
to buck the man

than hobbling around
like a fucking clown.

____________

for h

to be inside
a truly gorgeous woman
moaning in your ear
an ancient oracle
driving you on like a racehorse
stop for a moment
gaze upon this impossible scene
smile so broad
your ears join together on top of your head
come back
the oracle commands
cupping her hand behind your neck
they can take your legs
and your arms
strap you in a wheelchair
and feed you cornstarch
three times a day
so long as
you get to keep this memory
you’ve already
won.

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