Red Night

[Orchard Street, New Haven, CT]

Red lights like a three-eyed monster
over traffic in the sooty dark, red everywhere
in memorials around keeling light
poles, desert wine bottles, flowers dried up
like love, teddy bears lounging like deadbeat
fathers watching TV as life huffs by, sneakers
hanging from live wires like men in Jim Crow. Red
cries. Who I am but black
and alive tonight? My Sentra is not quiet,
not quite blood red. Poverty shot
another brother. The news says
the victim was the suspect. I mean a black
man shot a black man shot a black man, probably
over coke, the drug not the drink. And you think
of death and look at the sky which is all
smiles because the moon is naked again
tonight, no clouds, no clothes, no way
to hide that we are hurting so we extinguish
ourselves and each other. These houses
live across from a cemetery, from death,
heaven or hell. And you think happiness,
so vague–what does it really mean
to part the Red Sea of oppression?
To drive and wear red, feeding on pain
and power as boys basketball in old snow by
sputtering streetlights. I bump up the music
to cheer up the hood. Kids shake as my car
crawls around a liquor store. The lyrics, poison,
the beat, the cure. Business is booming
for funeral homes too. Men swagger
with brown paper bags or yell
as they whisper to a strutting
black woman so beautiful you want to be
more than you are. She’s decked for the club
all heels. And legs and a red dress so tight it boils
your blood and overheats your senses.
You want to stop but you do not stop.
Her natural hair like something out
of your garden.

Rayon Lennon