Jamaal May

The Meaning of Gorgeous

GOAST named himself Ghost

because The Stallion never stuck,

despite the power in his thighs,

all that carved calf muscle—the speed

you could see before his feet began

to piston on blacktop.

Gorgeous likewise never caught on;

we assured him we’d never call

another dude Gorgeous. It didn’t stop

him from taking off his shirt

whenever the temperature rose above 70.

His sternum, his triceps

and the blades of his shoulders,

all sandstone-shaded, mean

he is gorgeous,

whether we admit it or not.


Maybe Gorgeous would have worked out

If he was a boxer. Think about Sugar or Sweet Pea.

At least he would have a better explanation

for why he ended up in a plaster cast

than some bar insult

that made him break his hand

against a skull. Your temper 

is an animal,

Is the cool thing I didn’t say.

I doubt he would have heard me anyway

over the sound of the snarling

thing roaming the cage

of his chest—rising and falling, breath

after breath after gasp.

This is gorgeous.

The shade his skin turned

On a basketball court

After being called Yellow Bitch?

That’s Gorgeous too.

And that blow,  


And fury-quick,

Closing one of that fool’s eyes

While opening the brow of above it—

It’s a thing of—my god, y’all—

Maybe you had to see it to know.

Jamaal May is the author of Hum and The Big Book of Exit Strategies (Alice James Books). Individual poems appear nationally and internationally, being translated into multiple languages. He is the recipient of numerous honors including The Spirit of Detroit Award, The Benjamin Danks Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, American Library Association’s Notable Book Award, and two finalist nods for the NAACP Image Award. Jamaal hopes his work can serve as a bridge between interior landscapes and various communities.