Taylor Byas

Pantoum for Black Boys

!100! !50! after African Night Market by Walter Battiss (1965)
 

As the sky’s colors separate like oil in water,
black men turn blue in the sunset.
Flies hover over the tables,
circle like buzzards; fruit left for dead.

Black men turn blue in the sunset
like cotton dipped in indigo. Police
circle like buzzards, fruit left for dead –
a red smudge on a white sheet.

Like cotton dipped in indigo, police
lights spotlight the streets;
a red smudge on a white sheet
marks the end of childhoods.

Lights spotlight the streets,
but the dark squares of sidewalk
mark the end of childhoods,
and the mothers have nothing

but the dark squares of sidewalk
to blame. We light candles, we pray,
and the mothers have nothing
but an empty room to fill, to lock away,

to blame. We light candles, we pray
for a night without bloodshed, a night that is nothing
but an empty room to fill, to lock away.
I want to be you

for a night. Without bloodshed. A night that is nothing
but a trip to the gas station in a hoodie. Damn,
I want to be you
as the sky’s colors separate like oil in water.

Taylor Byas is a 23 year old Chicago native. She's spent her last six years in Birmingham, Alabama, where she received both her Bachelor's and Master's degrees in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She is preparing to begin her PhD program in Creative Writing at the University of Cincinnati in the fall. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Sanctuary, High Shelf Press, and New Ohio Review.
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