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The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2021

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FEB 2021 Issue
Poetry

LaDavid


LaDavid

For Sergeant LaDavid Johnson



Disembodied.   I think of the witch    who chopped up her brother    throwing the carmined
flesh    into the water   to slow her father’s armada   plowing the waves     without an
outboard motor     It wasn’t sorcery    just craft    Braving the sharks    here and there     they
collected each limb    without the blood        to assuage the young man’s spirit    to mollify
his father’s anger    if not the gods’    Did the brother     give up his life willingly   for her
America   or was it terrifying   that death would arrive    not so unexpectedly    at his blood
sister’s hands    They lost the quarry    but carried him home    glum under black sails
nonetheless   the body was properly entombed    reassembled    like the broken, artificial
borders     of territory    made whole only     from the eyes of space    Like yet another torn
deity


I think of the young widowed wife   who was warned   like Pandora   not to open the coffin
lid   or else   truth would escape   lay waste to forests of lies   She wanted an open coffin
like any black wife     who leans on the Lord   proof against the horror   of what they did to
him   whether white or black terrorists    or police at home     while the baby La’Shee within
nested   fruit against her bone   so that she and everyone would know    it was him    and
was he washed?    Identified.    Framed.   the still, tortured face   to the tearing, sorrowing one
perhaps fainting   into the arms of the Nurses Auxiliary   Instead she heard the words    like
a hex pronounced    even her husband’s name    was written backwards    and charred with
his tongue   when he couldn’t recall it    performing    even before witnesses   that he gave a
damn    about a finger    about a hand   She will sooner know    whether LaDavid will return
in the child’s face     than what was returned   in that coffin


I think what remains   of LaDavid   is the vibration in his name    recalling    both male and
female   commander and not sergeant    in two languages    he was named    because three
syllables    in his mother’s mind   was a whole new spell    from the one that had    quickened
him into being    This was the only magic   that created heroes   and wheelie kings from
Miami   and yet the dried, blood-wine pools     and whitened trails   echo the young widow’s
moans   at the doorstep to his remains    in Africa, in America    constantly seeking why   in
the cracked dust  not even ours    until only the lowly   beasts and insects    and questing
children    the sons of temporary allies    merely playing at     the war around them      can
bring the soldiers   to find and gather    the work of ISIS    Bones that may have been fingers
bones that may have been toes   bleached cartilage that was    a nose or an ear    become
evidence    Catalogued.    but in a much smaller box    on a cotton pillow    of how he died
piece by piece    belying his badges and honors    well celebrated     for that moment    and
sung.

Contributor

Gabrielle Daniels

Gabrielle Daniels’s Something Else Again: Poetry and Prose, 1975–2019 is published in the UK by Materials. The book, Daniels’s first full-length collection, collects poems and prose from the 1970s to the present, including the complete text of Daniels’s now-impossibly rare chapbook A Movement in Eleven Days, a retrospective essay on New Narrative, and excerpts from her in-progress novel Sugar Wars

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The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2021

All Issues