Two Poems by Lauren K. Alleyne

A photo of the dilapidated interior of a building.

Self Portrait with Burning Crosses

 Dubuque, IA. April, 2016


There isn’t enough water
to make a mirror,
enough light to give back
the faces wearing night
like armor. I’ve got
nothing to hold on to
in this white ass town
with its white ass worries
where someone decides
to ignite America
into some again-burning
greatness. I’m in the capital
talking poetry and witness
when I read the news
and try to put out the flames
that crawl across my skin,
forget it. But my tongue tastes
like ash. My hands wisp into smoke,
hold nothing but history. Fury
explodes bright and without
mercy: I become the burning.

Who struck the match? Who
pulled out this white hood,
this fiery robe? A student?
That woman in the bank,
with glasses and frosted hair?
The brown-toothed old man
who shuffles down main street
every morning at eight?
Was it the surly couple
across the street or the one
who smiles wide and distant
at once? Was it a lone wolf
or a gang of pimpled teenage boys
regurgitating the diet of Fox news
and hate they’d been fed their whole lives?

I’m a woman with skin
that summons crosses and flame.
Which is to say I am always burning.
Which is to say I do not have enough
tears to put myself out.



Self Portrait with Impending War


Home is the hodgepodge house,
the vacant lot beside it, the ailing
mango tree, the stingy coconut trees
with nobody left to climb them anyway.
Perhaps, you think, home could be this
continent with its confused seasons,
the roads that roll out in front of you,
limitless as the night sky. Home be this
small silence you curl into anywhere you go,
the one hovering in your chest beating
its fleshy time. This planet you scar
with too many clothes and plastic bags: home.
And where to run but everywhere?
What to weep for, but what is going,
somehow, to be gone?

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