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“3/4 Jazz,” “To the Conductors of Pursue, then Kill,” “World without End, Amen”

3/4 Jazz

to honor Yusef Komunyakaa

I am subsumed by how it horns

into obsidian and how it’s held up,

ever-captive, on the streets where

Coltrane still lives I love the teak

and teak and teak of it, the hand

drum that recognizes me dark I

adore my ebony as it strides the F

key in Lateef’s flute & my ten toes,

coal-colored, can outwit every lyre

as well as didgeridoos of aborigines,

coupling jet and the raven Agogô

bell I am sable & magical powers,

exhaust at least one hundred cymbals




To the conductors of pursue, then kill

I will not stop. Even if a cop appears from Perdition in a place he has no reason to be. Even if he slams me against the sidewalk or with the butt of his gun & tells me I am under arrest but not why; looks both gleeful and hateful as he asks to see my ID then throws me into no-one-will-ever-find-her-here. Even if he drags me along the ground until my flesh becomes a gravel road then tosses me into the back seat of a black & white then delivers me to a sergeant who orders a mug shot that will make me look wasted. (I am not wasted.) And if, after days of being forgotten in a jail cell smelling of piss and vomit, my bladder full of fear, I am taken before someone who someone else says has the right to judge me, who asks how do you plead?—I will concede that I’m only guilty of practicing of boketto—the Japanese art of gazing into the distance with no thought of anything specific—while black.




World without end, amen.

Never where I was when I first was.
Never this or any other age.
Never unwilling to earth Mars,
  belt Orion.
Never let anyone tell you I was never
  Amina de Sousa or Clotilde or Tulsa,
Never underestimate my sea, my slide
  and limb.
Never fail to flute me as Fantasy in D Minor.
Never tuba or lure me unless we
never will meet ever after again.
Never let me down because I will—
you should have no doubt about that.
Never Jesus or hummingbird nor poem
  me a never-ending ne’er-do-well.
Never mind. Never
miss a trick—just remember: n=ever.

Lynne Thompson was the 2021-22 Poet Laureate of Los Angeles and is a Poet Laureate Fellow of the Academy of American Poets. Thompson is the author of three collections of poetry, most recently "Fretwork," winner of the 2019 Marsh Hawk Poetry Prize and her newest collection "Blue on a Blue Palette" will be published by BOA Editions in 2024. 

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More from Issue 1: Fall 2020


Little Earthquakes

by Vickie Vértiz

desert roadways
Eye of the Beholder

No Room of One’s Own

by Emily Hodgson Anderson

library wood writing desk