love poems: rivers and trees (for alton)

i think i love a ghost
or a man
or a man who may be ghost tomorrow
that is to say
i love he whose skin is worth its weight
it is gold. it is black.

or maybe his skin is the grim reaper’s shadow
maybe i am in love with death’s shadow
and i just want to love him under the sun

sometimes you are a river
sometimes they make you a river
sometimes they make your blood flow red, like a river
Alton, you are a river now

maybe now they will call you by name
they will have to call you Mississippi or maybe Atchafalaya
they can no longer call you felon
you, river, are mighty and vast
they cannot contain you

maybe you will take root
maybe you will become a tree
and they will eat from you
they’ve always liked to pick us before we are ripe
or leave us, hanging

how much black flesh rots in white bellies, tonight?
how much strange fruit rots in white bellies, tonight?
have we not been served on silver platters, silver bullets
are they not full yet?

is it a god complex
that makes them want to turn us into rivers and trees?
is it not the seventh day? will they not take rest?
are flowers just the ashes of forgotten gold black people?
maybe this is what it means when it was written
of earth you were made and to it you shall return

will they turn my lover into a river or tree?
will i have to learn how to swim or climb to be near him?
if i sit under his shade, is it just the grim reaper following me?

i just want to love him under the sun.

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