Skip to Content

Gunpowder Lives

By Venus Thrash

-- for Tim, Kenneth and their mothers

Ever since my next-door neighbor stopped
in front of the stoop, unfolded The Post
to her son's smiling face, I've been obsessed
with the Obits page.  Here, she says,

handing me the paper, pointing to her son,
Kenneth, shot down like a damn dog
two years ago that day. No words soothe
in the presence of her dead son.

Nadine & Mary offer shoulders, a well-smoked
blunt, double shot of Christian Brothers brandy.
She takes a hit, declines the booze, drags her dead
son's damp face up a desolate flight of stairs.

Nadine & Mary beg her not to go up to that sad,
empty-ass apartment
. She ascends & disappears
behind a wall of cinderblocks. Nadine whispers,
It's time to let him go a little. Yeah, Mary nods,

blowing smoke past my eyes. I say nothing
of my own grief for my dead friend, Tim,
his last photo lying on the back seat of my car,
his sunken eyes asking questions no one ever

answered. I toss heartbreak aside
like the funeral program that's been riding
around with me since Tim died, past Ron's Unisex
Barbershop where I got my first Philly high-top

fade & Tim got his coif retouched & curled,
past Carnegie Library where we both cruised
the men. Between relic rides through the streets
of Washington, a hit on the blunt, a shot of brandy,

snapshot images of Tim & Kenneth strobe
my mind like contractions three minutes apart.
Born on nights celebrated in violence, firecrackers
in their mother's wombs--gunpowder lives

lasting 33 & 18 years--until they lit up the sky
like making risky love & callous gunshot
in the night. I read the Obits as front-page
news, scan the photos of well-trimmed goatees

on boyish faces, examine headstone years
etched in ink, sum up their lives as a lack
of longevity enshrouded in the morning

Added: Thursday, April 30, 2015  /  From "The Fateful Apple," (Hawkins Publishing Group, 2014). Used with permission.
Venus Thrash

Venus Thrash (1969 - 2021) has had poetry published in Gargoyle, Beltway Quarterly, Torch, and the Arkansas Review, and in the anthologies Spaces Between Us: An HIV/AIDS Anthology, Full Moon on K Street: Poems About Washington, DC, Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem's First Decade, and Haunted Voices, Haunting Places: An Anthology of Writers of the Old and New South. She has read at the Studio Museum in Harlem, The Schomburg Center for African American Research, and The Library of Congress. She was a professor of fiction and poetry, and a mother. Thrash released her first book, The Fateful Apple, in 2014.

Other poems by this author