poetry quarterly

10th anniversary


Randall Horton



The granddaddy, from Mississippi
red mud, migrated to DC with gospel
& the breeze of Emmett Till's cry
ringing hears ears like a field holler.

A slow harmonic voice, he could
pluck a guitar & keep four/four time,
sing brackish sorrow in the low note—
make a woman swallow laughter.

His father grew up 60s Motown
on Trinidad, rehearsing lyrics
under a whirling glow of streetlight
on the corner of 8th & Florida Avenue.

Rhythm was his middle name. He crooned
to chocolate dips in crinoline skirts
until one delivered a boy, born on the day
Marvin Gaye took his last poetic bow.

Twenty years later this boy, scion
of blues & index fingered baselines,
seed of wannabe hipster & sweet talker
has found a motif mirroring his heritage.

Sitting flush to a wall at the Green Line
Metro stop—broken twig in each hand,
he does a drum roll on five gallon buckets,
beaded cornrows thrashing wildly about.

His unlaced Timberlands tap the cement
on the first down beat—he bangs the cowbell
not once but twice, & begins to howl
in the call & response of his generation.


Randall Horton is a former recipient of the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize. He is the author of the poetry collections The Lingua Franca of Ninth Street, and The Definition of Place, both from Main Street Rag. Horton is co-editor of the anthology Fingernails Across the Chalkboard Poetry and Prose on HIV/AIDs from the Black Diaspora (Third World Press, 2007). Horton has a MFA in Creative Writing with an emphasis in Poetry from Chicago State University and a PhD in Creative Writing from SUNY Albany. He is a Cave Canem Fellow. Most recently his poems, fiction and nonfiction have appeared in: Mythium, Mosaic, Black Renaissance, Crab Orchard Review and Full Moon on K Street: Poems about Washington, DC. Horton is an Assistant Professor at the University of New Haven, the poetry editor of Willow Books, and the Editor-in-Chief at Tidal Basin Review.


Published in Volume 12, Number 1, Winter 2011.


To read more by this author:
Randall Horton: Floricanto Issue