Len Lawson

Len Lawson is the author of the upcoming chapbook Before the Night Wakes You (Finishing Line Press). He has been accepted to the Ph.D. in English Literature and Criticism program at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Len is a 2015 Pushcart Prize & Best of the Net nominee and a 2016 Callaloo Fellow.  His poetry appears or is forthcoming in Callaloo,[PANK], Mississippi Review, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Winter Tangerine Review, and elsewhere. He is a Poetry Reader & Book Reviewer for Up the Staircase Quarterly.




George Zimmerman as Jack in Titanic Painting Trayvon Martin as Rose

                I’m the King of the World


I am an adequate boy with modest talents

casting my lot with rats in the ship’s steerage


I live by my wits

wet with addiction

to the next slay

              my surgical


              on canvas

                             My gun has teeth

Soft bristles with progeny reserved for

fallen angel feathers

My trigger fingers are angels of light


You tremble with the innocent whiteness

of a chalk outline

             Your arm just so above your head


Your legs crossed in a figure-four

praying for the ring bell to end

              our brawl

our dance

              our savage visual/performing art


Clothe me in your aggression red

on the concrete canvas


Can’t you hear the ocean

through the holes in your body


               We are both

                going down

                by the head


I will seek solace through the valley

of the V in the word victim


I present to the rebirth of impressionism

your tender black body pressed into the street


I have more bodies to brush with bullets

                            to call my masterpiece



Stretch yourself above the rails of it

              arms extended

like a broken messiah


              Trust me.

Release my hand to the frozen sea

Just know

                           sweet black Rose

                                                                     I’ll never let go

                                                                     I’ll never let go




Because she loved the stuff

way more than me or the stuff within me

That’s what I called her to my next

girl who didn’t like her either because

she had that long blonde hair and blue eyes


that other girls that don’t have them hate

Krack wanted me to stop her from using one night

outside the corner store where we worked

I drove her home and talked the devil out of her

for a good three hours, neglecting the clinched fist


of her face and the hiss of her cigarettes in my car

I was in love with her smile and her immaculate chest

El Shaddai, The Heavy-breasted One

The One From Whom We Can Nurse blessed me

with His Coming beneath her uniform shirt


But she didn’t love me like her cigs and crack or

maybe it was because her folks and friends would

call her nigger lover behind her back in their trailer parks

with the confederate flag tattooed on everything like

a traveling circus act that sees the rest of the world as the circus


Maybe because she didn’t like the way people stared

when I held her blond-haired blue-eyed sons’ hands

in Concord Mills Mall where the one little badass

got away from her and she chased him around for

a good fifteen minutes looking back at me to do something


because she couldn’t really run after being

shot in the leg by the boys’ daddy now in prison

I couldn’t go black all over the little terror in a mall so

I chased him and remarkably wasn’t gunned down

right there by security for kidnapping


At work she got visits from randoms who looked

in worse shape than she was. I caught a glimpse

of her cute dry lips mouthing desperately

I don’t do that anymore

I loved her for trying to live holy


with the devil caged behind her eyes

I knew it was over after we fucked at my place

for the first time right before work

the fear or disgust in her eyes humiliated me

She elected to keep on a T-shirt that couldn’t


hide a mermaid on her left breast who

swam in and out of the freckles with each pump

She popped up faster than she tried to catch her son in the mall

when it was over. Later my new girl would ask her

on the phone with me in the background, You didn’t like it?


No! she screamed, Not like that. Not with him.

Months later when the baby daddy got out of jail

she let him back in with open freckles

I’d been used before and would be used again

but not by El Shaddai, not by a mermaid


not by the addiction that is blond and blue

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