Rhythm & Verse Three Maryland poets become our narrators for life’s little moments.

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THE GREEN TABLE

Offered for free in the neighborhood
Facebook group and kindly dropped off
in a van by the owner one afternoon.

Maybe it was that mossy green
after the determined cold of February,
the trees too gray to bear this year.

Once inside, too heavy to carry upstairs
to become my new desk—its legs thick
and feet too large—I questioned my impulse.

I thought I’d say I’d changed my mind,
or maybe after he left I’d ask a neighbor
to drag it into the alley where unwanted

things disappear in a matter of hours.
But as the man showed me how the leaves
worked, I saw the soft slant of his cheek,

the delicate mouth and still careful
movements of a woman underneath
the sway of shoulders and light facial fuzz.

He turned to go. Said he hoped I’d love it.
I said I would. Because I knew what it cost
to give away an old life, piece by piece.

—Christine Stewart

Christine Stewart is editor-in-chief of Del Sol Press. A former artist-in-residence with Creative Alliance in Baltimore, she is the recipient of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize nominee, and has been published in a variety of literary magazines. Stewart provides manuscript editing and critique to writers and poets.

 

 

WHOOP

These days I like less and less
to whoop it up
unless there’s a valuable lesson to be learned.
A rare bird.
A cup of sand to throw
in the furnace of these ding dong days.

You want a poet?
Sit for a good long while
in the clothes of yesteryear.
A kid with his ball,
tossing the seasons around.
Stay cool kid, have a good summer.
Late in the street
there’s a beery train of Clydesdales
run amok for a moment in the moonlight.
My cherry cigarette
suggesting interesting ways
to make a silhouette.

—Shane Moritz

Shane Moritz, a Baltimorean, is a poet and writing instructor who has partnered with a number of organizations throughout the city, including Johns Hopkins University’s Odyssey program.

 

 

NIGHTS AT MAYA’S

As always, I arrive with the Scottish mzungu
eventually his presence will stop getting us
faster service. He starts by ordering Tusker and we
are armed with conversation on observations.

Once in their eyes I was probably a prostitute.
What black woman hangs with white men?
So I told them, Mimi ni wanafunzi
I am a student, so don’t give me those tsk tsk’s.

When I place my order — nyama choma with goat,
I know I saved a chicken’s life as he comes out
running from the pen in the back of the restaurant
to thank me. The servers don’t know why I laugh.

Because it is tradition, I wash my hands
in the dirty bowl the little boy carries from table to table,
before cupping the steaming ugali and nyoma choma
to my lips like prayer. This is what I will remember
from Kenya. Not the woman around the corner
selling ripe mangoes, brown eggs with feathers,
fresh food my stomach will not process. Not the planned
monthly riots with crimson-tainted rifle butts, the two-handed
gropes in gaudy bars but the long nights at Maya’s
a belly full of roasted goat stewed in onions, tomatoes,
maybe irio or chips, and maize porridge for capturing the juices,
spinning theory under a spread and studded sky.

—Teri Ellen Cross Davis

“Nights at Maya’s” by Teri Ellen Cross Davis, from “Haint”
Copyright 2016. Reprinted by permission of Gival Press.

Teri Ellen Cross Davis is the author of Haint (Gival Press, 2016), winner of the 2017 Ohioana Book Award for Poetry. A Cave Canem fellow and a member of the Black Ladies Brunch Collective, she is the poetry coordinator for the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., and lives in Maryland with her husband, poet Hayes Davis, and their two children.

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