The bow, the collar, the pin, the post.
Precisely cut ridges, a city skyline,
nickel silver glistening under the streetlight.
You fumble them one-by-one, each clink paired
to a gym locker, a mailbox, the apartment door
with steel round bars on the glass.
How awkwardly they fit between your knuckles
at midnight, walking from the theater district
downtown. How subtly you silence their jingle.
The faceplate, the latch bolt, the strike, the spring,
the fist clamping the knob to the door that cannot
open fast enough. The space between the exit
and your car. The pointed edge, just sharp
enough to break through skin, the contours,
the crevices, the Taekwondo class you never took.
The hull, the plug, the driver pin. The master key,
a cocksure screw to unfasten the most stubborn
locks, a slight jimmy, a little coercion, an otherwise
perfect fit. How quickly you’ve learned the brightest
route to your house, which streets you can cross,
makeshift claws at the ready.
She knows she glows this time of night;
when the moon carves diamonds
from her skin. She is a lunar-lit
coal mine, her ashen tongue coated
in cinder and scalded prayer—
Below the streetlight,
she drops to her knees and begs
her feet to become wings.
She knows the space between her luck
and her front door,
she missed the window—
Forehead pressed to the street,
she claws at concrete until she draws blood,
knowing the flesh beneath her fingernails
is only earth. She uproots the asphalt,
but digging feels clean—
She scrapes the sidewalk for the fragments
that slipped through her temples
and presses them into stones.
But she knows her fossils are fuel,
and do not look the same under fire,
melted down, poked, prodded—
I catch his silhouette, wind through his hair, curls taking flight.
He meets me at the fountain draped in rotting leaves and moonlight.
I wave a peaceful greeting when he steps into my sight.
He flashes me a midnight smile, teeth sparkling like moonlight.
A car backfires and he’s on edge, eyes peeled for flashing lights.
I want him in my arms to hold under the moonlight.
He curls his fingers to a fist, his knuckles full of fight.
I reach my hand to touch his skin, an indigo in moonlight.
The instant when the black on black caress, I pray it might
stir up a peace inside him, asleep for many moons. Light
peeks through onyx trees, an orange and blue, a pink and white,
but leave us here below the whistling moon. When light
draws near, he asks in haste, “Aris, what is a violet night?”
When black-skinned boys are safe to roam between the moon and light.
Aris Brown has a BA from the University of Houston and is an inaugural member of CoogSlam, the 4th in the nation collegiate slam team. She is an associate poetry editor for the literary magazines Glass Mountain and Shards and is a reader for Gulf Coast. She has work published in Underground Journal