Two Poems by
Justin Phillip Reed

When I Am the Reaper

                                             after Aziza Barnes

I have a walk that confetties jibbles of pigeons
               onto sills of second-story windows and enlists
                              cotillions of crows to post up and soundtrack

my trek with trochees of italic f punctuating
               the power lines. I crash the happy marriage
                              of ex-smack den and turquoise-veined boutique—

one mouth foaming white and the other troubled
               with chap and language harshened by wind chill.
                              They know me not by name but by increased

police presence. What I take is my damn time.
               I hawk flares of phlegm, stomp everywhere
                              on the sidewalk, knowing nothing could break

my momma’s back any further than the mother
               fucker who blew thirty years filing insurance claims
                              under the bell jar and watched her body curl

in the smoke. I come for his kid. Coated in blue
               like a gullet full of Prozac, I balloon up that
                              advanced placement with inferiority complex

and clap a book on that ass ass ass ass ass.
               When I am the reaper, God works me from
                              the blackest material known even to herself

to ferry all light frequencies to the curved back
               of her eye. I mean black as you might not see me
                              but, black as clocking fuckery for eons, black

as an unlit corner in the church that I shouldered
               together before they had a town for the devil
                              to tear through, blacker than before this dry

erase. I’m the wall the writing’s on and the last
               three teeth in the loud throat of a bus, and yeah
                              I heard what you muttered in the pearly white

parley, but you don’t know I know where you get off.

A Leadspray of Starlings

Which was a compensation for songlessness
            was an accident

                             The particular ills of an able body
            That it could be
                                          its diagrammable musculature
   a breakable foal and if not
                                     brought to heel
to infantry to
                    interstate medians There was
latent tremendous sickness His
                                                  he-ness for instance
               which in this climate

                                                    The figure of the
          Nigger did its long-lidded hover A flutter over fields
               itself flat with a tractor
               Combed a magnolia’s crown Shook down
          its messy skirt
                              Exhausted we lay like
                                                                 open graves Watching
          the scatter con
                              stellate we called out
                                                                 “cuttlefish” “bindle
               stiff” “Moo
                                   sport” “POTUS head”
          scatter was lost in sky sky was full of night and night’s
                                                                 stuck in our mouf