put on your suit face

by James Browning Kepple
Third Place, July 2011
Judged by Tyehimba Jess

there’s a corncob hat underneath the fedora,
it fits well into the curvatures,
in the sun we wear two hats,
one on the other, to align our heads with heat,
we feel this mother earth rise to the feet
and we dance a dance of simple lines
some betrayed
some highlighted,
there in the bask of the light

and if in the dark corners of your mind,
you crumple the felt, you squeeze cotton,
we will rebuild

put on your suit face, the one you’ve had hidden,
down deep in the corners of your memories,
you remember all those gritty streets,
you tell the children of such plight
and our served dastardly after, as a poser of blight,
no I am just a showman of the south,
zip your lids kiddos, cause daddy’s gonna fight

and you sequester the information, you fold neat,
place back pocket plead in attempt to repeat,
yes we do this, no we do not do that,
these kids are tripping on mushrooms you gotta see ‘em live

but we don’t live do we in our old age, our adages,
we look dull and black hole to the fire of youth,
for once where we were burning rubble,
sucking in the industrial heat to the teeth,
they see only our stories, our comic book truth,
and deny that we were ever youth,

to trick the transatlantic, to suffrage the swell
we hold on dearly to our defeatist optimistic
one more party to throw
one more stand to be made

and thrust thereafter, we remain
patrons of the suitface

I don’t really ‘get’ everything in this poem. But I enjoy the risks the author takes with the ‘suitface’ the invitation toward obfuscation, and the twists and turns we go through that take us from the mushrooms to the “dull and black hole to the fire of youth.” This kind of desire to stretch the language shows a lot of promise. ---Tyehimba Jess

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