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Glenn North

Visiting an Old Friend
for KB  

I arrive at the spot where they found you
dead, sprawled out on the floor, head in a pool
of blood, a lit joint just beyond your reach.  

I pluck the bullet from your brain
use my own bone and skin
to seal the hole where it entered.  

I close the door knowing
the assassin’s return is inevitable
and begin the impossible task.  

I warn you that the guy who called
claiming he has your money is setting you up.
Murder is the way he will clear his debt.  

The January moon has the audacity to shine
silver rays on the crimson stains
I try to wipe off the floor.  

With your blood on my hands I keep
apologizing for not staying in touch
over the expanse of cities and seasons  

which is why thirteen years after the fact
I find myself in a fold in time,
in a fatal room, on an East St. Louis night.  

I tell you the son you always wanted
was born eight months, two weeks
and three days after your death. I don’t

mention the fact that the police will never
conduct an investigation, the assailant
will not be apprehended, that our cries

for justice will not be heard. With the sound
of footsteps approaching I rush to tell you
about Dione. How her love was the arm  

that pulled me from the ledge… that I’m back
in school… that I’m still writing… that Ron
is doing a 15-year bid in Leavenworth…

that Bobby is still getting on everybody’s nerves.
Our miraculous laughter is as deep and wide
as the winter night. Then comes the knock.  

When you rise. I hug you longer than you
feel comfortable with and beg you
not to answer the door.



The Art of Choking  

I chew and swallow so fast
I believe choking will be
my cause of death. Just last year,
a Dorito forced its way down
the wrong pipe, its three sharp
corners, with surgical precision,
filling my throat with nacho cheese
and blood. I will never forget
the night at Jimmy D’s a jumbo-sized
rib tip was so stubbornly wedged
in my throat I couldn’t catch
my breath for three whole minutes.
I lunged and bucked, eyes wide
as saucers, searching for help.
No one attempted the Heimlich.
Although the glut of meat made it
through my esophagus, it remained
lodged in my chest for two days.
But nothing compares to the time
last semester, when Sterling,
this white guy I had in a poetry
workshop, this guy who said
things like “With the inherent
disparity that exists in the
unemployment rate it’s easy to
understand why black people don’t tip.”
This guy that I vowed to challenge
the next time he said anything
even remotely offensive, used the word
“nigger” twice in one sentence
during a class discussion of the poem  
“Incident” by Countee Cullen.
Although it came in the guise
of intellectual interrogation,
his utterance tore through me
like barbed wire through the neck
of a fourteen year old boy. But my
indignant response never made it
out of my throat. It just got stuck there
like a mis-swallowed Dorito,
or a jumbo-sized rib tip.