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Truth Thomas

About the Poet

TRUTH THOMAS is a singer-songwriter and poet, born in Knoxville, Tennessee, raised in Washington, DC. He studied creative writing at Howard University under Dr. Tony Medina and earned his MFA in Poetry at New England College.

His poetry collections include Party of Black (2006), A Day of Presence (2008), Bottle of Life (2010) and Speak Water (2012), winner of the 2013 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in Poetry. He serves on the editorial boards of both the Tidal Basin Review and the Little Patuxent Review and is the founder of Cherry Castle Publishing.

Most recently, he guest edited the ground-breaking Little Patuxent Review Social Justice Issue (Winter 2012). He is a former Writer-in-Residence for the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society (HoCoPoLitSo), and currently serves on the HoCoPoLitSo board. Thomas’ work has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His poems have appeared in over 70 publications including The 100 Best African American Poems (edited by Nikki Giovanni.)


Spring 2013 Poems »
Deep Dishing

“I have heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my dim killed children.”
--Gwendolyn Brooks, “the mother”

The blues is not a vegetarian, so a grilled-cheese sandwich I
know once told me, before it felt sighs of Kenmore irons, on my have-
not dinner table. Call it carnivore-fundamentalist—a growling heard
in bloody packs of centuries. Call it fetish hound for brown in
its gastrointestinal appointments. Call it howls for chattel children, the
flesh of my cuisine, so coats with holes have told me, their voices
low, as if to pass a secret. But I am miles of hunted wiles of
my surviving kin. And I am not a cup of shivers. And we are not the
easy meat for tyranny’s grill. And I know this, like talon wind
knows deep dish singing: I would rather drink muddy water—the
swill of your scat, call hollow logs home, than not fight back. Voices
of my own are gathering, as another scent stokes fire of
this night. And even trees seem to dance, watching flames spit on my
spit, skinning skin of suffering, big dogs made meals for the dim.
The moon jumps over Stormy Monday, whenever your blues is killed.
The sun evicts ice from its building, when courage gives birth to her children.

On a Night When I Didn't Win the Lottery in Greektown

The Eastern Avenue vein we rode kept its pulse of honking,
signs over restaurants near Ponka Street kept their vows to blue,
white lettering upon them, bright as teeth in Crest commercials—
brighter even, than the check engine light in an 87 Ford Taurus.
On a night when I didn't win the lottery in Greektown—all 656
mega millions of it, good cooking still claimed air of this village,
firing up hope in our bellies like pilot lights on stoves. All the
gods of food gather at tables in Greektown, and we circled them:
Acropolis, Zorba, Ikaros: I tell them, we are here to look for
safe parking—only, and not to let their nostrils get too wide-eyed
at what we can't afford: cheese pie, spinach pie, gyros up the
culinary ying-yang, lamb chops, licking chops, fried calamari...
We are going to Burger King, about a mile up the road, I tell
them, and then we'll come back, and maybe one day, we'll live
But on a night when I didn't win the lottery
in Greektown, I hardly thought of it at all. Old men still played
cards in shuffling smiles, young men still led their dicks on
leashes. There was no time to think of torn tickets, Good Year
radial bedposts, four-door living room-bedroom-kitchens, or
lost jobs, or shelter nights of screams, or families torn apart
by jaws of un-social services. Homework still had to be done,
in the third month, penciled in by dome-light, on a night when
I didn't win the pillow life in Greektown, because a woman
from McDonaldland did. McDonald's doesn't pay half a McShit.
I know. I'm leanin' counters there, four weeks from baggin' rent.
Lord knows, I am happy for this woman, but I would have been
happier, still, if one of the Quick Pick gods picked me—pick me.

Once inside the King, I coined our last supper request, just before
we headed back to the empty parking lot, across from St. Nicholas
Greek Orthodox Church. On a night when I didn't win the
freedom deed in Greektown, bedtime was thirty degrees, silent
fangs of “Beware of Dog” signs still patrolled back alleys, buses
still spoke their air-brake sighs, central heat remained our idling
engine—twenty minutes on, twenty minutes off—the countdown,
steaming windows sweat until they bled and I remember a
looking glass man at a register, who asked me if I wanted “the
meal or just the sandwich.” “Nobody orders a la carte with two
kids in the car,” I told him. “Scootch together tighter than Legos,”
I tell them.
The countdown: twenty minutes on, twenty minutes off,
twenty minutes on, twenty minutes off to dreams in shivers.


Star Spangled Double Subject
They smoke black folks like cigarettes—
black folks, they smoke. Black folks are smoke.


You Didn't Axe Me

Who mo free—you, me?
Both plantation tied, we
real cuffed, we sho nuff,
whether weez write, or
run from writing, riding,
stories bout massa, that
fat bastud rides on us—
White Supremaholiness,
his high-nass, the long
saddled lie. You choose:
say everything, bout
urrything, bout all thangs,
except yo privileged
whips—yo franchise,
swinging dis infranchise
mint what I said, said
what I meant. That candy
ain’t candy. Señor Chain
Daddy has not left booth—
left three-fifths broadcast
of me. That story, no story.
My story, just a story, not
good enuf to suit the
spear-chality of yo Can.
None but the Father got
the right to name yo lines
liberated (synonym:
emancipated, unshackled),
butt preach me and minez,
all licks of confines, if we
tell you shit hurts, when it
do. Got no reason not to,
call and response this
bluesody. Both of us cages,
bullworks buttoning here.
You, yet a slave croppin'—
studying on bloodying,
me, yet a fixing to defang
cotton mouth you.



Truth Thomas ~
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