December 17th, 2010 / 1:32 am

“DEAD DEAD,” Quraysh Ali Lansana


heat on the southside

last night, police cordoned the four square
blocks surrounding my house in pursuit of a thug
who unloaded on the shell of a gangsta
in the funeral parlor filled with formaldehyde
and lead. black folks scattered, staining
complicated streets. i settle in for summer:
the maze to the front door, running teens
smelling of weed and tragedy from my stoop
reminding my sons they are not sources
of admiration, praying that might change. not yet
june heat rises like the murder rate, gleam
and pop already midnight’s bitter tune

fifteen years ago, tyehimba jess
told me about a funeral home
with a drive through window.

you pull up, push a call button
through bulletproof glass a friendly
somber attendant takes your request.

moments later, casket open
your order appears for review.

at the time i thought it inhumane.
now i think about the abstraction
of friendship while counting bullets.

is there an extra dead?
what is the term for dying again
when already? killing chi?
and what of the corpses that walk
my block in the anonymity
of black skin and white tees
filled with fluid?

originally appeared in Sou’wester, Spring 2011 issue. Reprinted by permission.


  1. mjm

      If Sou’wester publishes work like this, then they are my kind of publication. Thanks for uppin my knowledge of a poet I probably wouldn’t have come across.

  2. Kyle Minor

      Sou’wester is an underheralded journal. They’ve recently published stories by Donald Ray Pollock (some of which are in Knockemstiff) and Douglas Watson. Back in the day, they published early Raymond Carver. They do cool special issues, such as, in 2006, Contemporary Catalan Poetry in Translation. The fiction editor is Valerie Vogrin, and the poetry editor is Adrian Matejka, author of Mixology, which was the National Poetry Series winner in 2006 (Kevin Young was the judge.)