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Jeffrey Lamar Coleman

About Poet
Jeffrey Lamar Coleman received his B.A. in Communications from Winthrop University, his MFA. in Creative Writing, with an emphasis in poetry, from Arizona State University, and his Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of New Mexico.  He is the author of Spirits Distilled: Poems, published by Red Hen Press (2006).  His teaching interests at St. Mary's College of Maryland include creative writing, contemporary multicultural American literature, African-American literature, and literature of the human condition.  With support from the Maryland Humanities Council, he is a frequent guest lecturer throughout the state and country on the history and poetry of the American Civil Rights Movement.  He lives in St. Leonard, MD.


Every thought in the early summer yard
Unearths wings, feathers of garden blood
Once mistaken for cardinals
Siphoning earthworms
Near a bed of yellow coreopsis.

I should have known
Nothing natural or beautiful
Still exists. A red bird
Can no longer be a red bird:
Sectarian overkill; ethnic erasure.

If you give flowers what they want
They will never want to die.
When the last daffodils fell
In late June, I had to fly
To another country
Where every hand I shook,
I am sure, had once shaken -
Possibly tremored -
Happily or dutifully.

In the afternoon, with pen in hand
I was taken to a cell
Of blindfolded men and women.
In my journal I noted
That there was no sound
But the smell clang
Like metal across steel.

For some reason,
I remembered counting last week
One, two, three
As I deadheaded the petunias.
Four, five, six -
Then a black-hooded man at my side
Tapped me on the shoulder

And pointed to a woman
Propped against a wall -
Her blindfold white and double-knotted.
Suddenly, another black hood
Proceeded to sword through
Her jugular, then another
And another
Until all I could see
Was a flock of red wings
Sifting through the ancient bars
Flooding, slowly, the dimly-lit room.


Always There

I guess you can say I was happy,
At peace inside the springtime Chesapeake breeze
With both eyes closed as I stood enveloped before sunrise.

My left hand in my front pocket. My right hand in back
As I swayed gently in rhythm with the waves
That made irregular but joyful, playful sounds
Coming and going in both ears at once -
So hypnotic, so quixotic
That I froze and emptied myself of all else
Until I was no longer there -
My ankles slipping downward in the quickening sand,
Then my knees, shoulders and hairline
Until there was nothing but darkness.

You shouldn't believe everything you hear about the buried.
They're not as forlorn or vengeful as you might imagine.
I usually visit on Mondays as my father is waking.
We hug and sit down at the table.
He always places a Bible between us
As if he thinks my soul is about to burst into glorious flames.
Or maybe he remembers my recurring dream
Where I am bound and attacked by nails
Hailing from the mouth of God.

I bring photos, newspapers, and poems. He looks at everything
And shakes his head, but I never know why.
Maybe he can't believe I have kids he has never seen,
That our "boys and girls," as he calls them
Are still in Iraq, that a governor has now become Client 9.

We go on like this for hours. Always smiling,
Sometimes exchanging glances, but usually not.
He was a quiet man all 56 years of his South Carolina life,
But he was always there. We hold hands
Just before I prepare to leave. "I'll be back," I tell him,
"Maybe again next Monday."
He nods, smiles, and closes his eyes.

By the time I step away, the waves have receded
And the sun has risen.
Birds, whole flocks and flocks of seagulls,
Sing back and forth in their morning frenzy.

When I look up, I can not find them -
But yes, I know that they are there,
I always know that they are there.


For Ynez

Nothing, but still there were more
Walks along those regions
When strolls turned into years -
I was listening, my arms
Spread against memory, stoned
Swollen throughout, within
Visible, profoundly touchable, silence.

I thought I would never arrive
Here, in this unbroken space
Where land does not embrace land
But evolves into bodies
Of water, birds, and you.

I have seen the music of your hands
Rise, fall, and dance
Swiftly through this earth.
Dare I say it entrances,
Or do I mean it removes
All that is not in tune or at peace?

And if it is true
There is no such thing as freedom,
Then how should we explain
Escaping from that world
Of searching for this sound?
Is it not rhythmic, full, and filled
With cadences all our own?

Where were they before? And us?
Were we not moving
Our voices towards each other?

Yes, we, too, have arrived
Not solely to inhabit this space
But to cast upon it gifts
Only our presence can and must create.


Jeffrey Lamar Coleman
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