Joel Dias-Porter


for Phyllis Hyman

What distant cry is this, whose rising moan,
whose flurry fleet of turquoise colored notes
caress the dark arms of the air? Then floats
and trails, rippling like scales or silver stones
awash and polished in a sonic stream
that cocks the head and taps the tempted toe.
Wends sibilant seduction in its flow,
vanishing towards the dawn like a dream.
Your bluesy whistle, hi-hatted with flair,
once also kissed the naked neck of night.
Improvised in the heat of harmony
it rose, a soft solo of hard blown air
dipping, fluttering, almost like a kite
held fast by cords, that somehow floated free.

photo by Thomas Sayers Ellis

In chalk on asphalt

Muggy August is in the house,
the thick air sticking a black T-shirt
into the curve of my back.
So I head out for a banana Slurpee,
close the front door
like the cover of a book,
praying for a silversoft rinse of rain.
Stars spill like grains of salt
across a black tablecloth of sky.
I pass the metal-grated Liquor Store’s
flashing Colt .45 sign.
The moon is a mottled cue ball
about to break up the hustlers
clustered on the corner.
I shake my head to the question
yellowing their eyes.
A Jeep booms by,
trailing a ribbon of rapping,
tires whispering lines into the asphalt’s ear.
At the corner by the 7-11 sign,
I’m stopped by the yellow insistence
of police tape.
A shaking woman leans
on an older woman’s shoulder,
heavy lines penciled on her face,
a low wail breeding in her throat.
Her cheeks are shiny
under water-colored eyes,
arms curled as if to cradle a body:
a name hangs crooked from her lips.
A teen-aged boy
lies in the oil-streaked street;
Cherry Kool-Aid stains his shirt,
his neatly laced sneakers
are white as a kilo of coke.
An Evidence Tech peers
into a viewfinder,
shoots over and over again.
The Coroner’s van waits
with its mouth ajar,
while witnesses’ fingers disagree
on the number of shots.
The Elm trees hold
their arms in the air.
The parked cars stare straight ahead.
I glance heavenward.
But, there’s not a single cotton ball
of cloud in the sky,
as police radios crackle,
the van’s mouth closes:
and the sound of red
begins a heavy reign.



(For Yen)

Call her an electric currency.
Imagine a banknote
high as her cheekbones.
Yearn to say grace in Cantonese.
Not before an ordinary meal,
but before lips full as ripe fruit.
Say the tongue dreams
of tasting her oranges,
freshly peeled. Dreams
they say pluck me in Mandarin,
of softly circling a Navel.
The flesh pulses with Blood
anticipating a touch.

What does she deal
if not a high card narcotic?
Call her addiction (opiate):
Watch her smile blossom
wide as the petals of Poppies.
I cannot box, but will rebel
if denied these endorphins.
Intervene S'il vous Plait.

I'll relapse into a dream
of her lovely fingers.
I bend like a card
marked by a yearning:
Wash me face down,
shuffle me by hand, I beg.



for LaSon C. White (1961-2007)

April sprouts around us,
is the sky as sullen there?
The hour after we talked was
cruelest, most raw. In less than a
month, your doctor says
breeding cells will overwhelm you.
Lilacs bloom here as there, just
out the door. Purple hints
of all the Prince songs we've shared.
The plentiful petals are
dead certain to flutter around,
land and decorate your walkway.

April's sibilant drizzle
is like a ride cymbal, mocking
the insistent rhythm of memories,
cruelest at dusk. What other
month would dream of
breeding, then watering these
lilacs purple as bruises?
Out of the incessant rhythm
of the rain's thin fingers,
the melody of a woman's voice
dead on key, singing Adore,
lands on my quivering ears.

April winds wane,
is that the phone ringing amid
the backscatter of the evening news?
Cruelest is the quiet after the call.
Month after month will sprout,
breeding a peace soothing as those
lilacs you loved so much. But right now,
out on the horizon, the purple song
of the setting sun is
the last hope I have, of being
dead silent and hearing your voice in the
land of the living.

Joel Dias-Porter (aka DJ Renegade) was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA. He served in the US Air Force, then became a professional DJ in the DC area. In 1991, he quit his job and began living in homeless shelters, while undergoing an Afrocentric self-study program. From 1994 through 1999, he competed in the National Poetry Slam, finishing as high as second place in the individual competition, and was the 1998 and 1999 Haiku Slam Champion. His poems have been published in the anthologies Meow: Spoken Word from the Black Cat, Def Poetry Jam, Revival: Spoken Word from Lollapallooza, Poetry Nation, Beyond the Frontier, and The Black Rooster Social Inn, which he also edited. He has performed on the Today Show, in the documentary SlamNation, on BET, and in the feature film Slam. The father of a young son, he has a CD of jazz and poetry on Black Magi Music, entitled LibationSong.


Published in Volume 10:2, Spring 2009.


Read more by this author:
Joel Dias-Porter (aka DJ Renegade)
Joel Dias-Porter: Split This Rock Issue
Joel Dias-Porter: Audio Issue