Rasheed Copeland

One Good Lung


There, in a humble polis of copper skinned folk

I watched a pair of old fools forge a bond in chain smoke.

This was in the nadir of a nationwide exiling

that banished all the other men from their houses

and replaced them with a government stipend.  

Somehow, by either pride, or miracle, these two

did not become expatriates of their easy chairs

but instead remained relics from an ilk of male negroes

whose skin was once made of real leather,

took the one good lung they had between them

and weathered their extinction

never wasting a single ration of breath

on luxuries, such as saying I love you

but opted to let a borrowed stem of cancer

from their personal bouquets utter such sweet nothings.

Would not admit it, but requited their love with poems

not those of pen and pad because ink costs

and to be their type of black and man

was to have pockets that kept an incurable echo,

but the kind that conveyed vividly, a greyed man

asleep on his couch, a bushel of his buddy’s offspring

blanketing the floor with the television gazing into their eyes

while their pop is away combing the streets

trying to spin his lint into silk or at the very least

take the thinnest of air and somehow extract from it,

a gallon of milk.

I mean poems that know the difference

between rhetoric and imagery

ones that do not tell of the petty dick measuring

that never kept them at each other’s throats,

but those that without warning, poured the malt libation

down your neck and stung your throat

in the exact spot it would holler in theirs

as the bottle of flame mediated their silly spats

and melted the icecaps of their shoulders

ushering in the first warmth of drunkenness

like the first warmth of Spring

reminding me of my own misfortune

how I become a tundra whenever I think

of how my homies hate poetry.

Rasheed Copeland is a native of Washington, DC. He is a father and a husband.  He is the author of The Book of Silence:  Manhood As a Pseudoscience (Sergeant Press, 2015) and was a recipient of the 2016 DC Commission of the Arts and Humanities Fellowship Award.  He placed 2nd in the world at the 2015 Individual World Poetry slam. He is currently studying English at the undergraduate level at Howard University in his junior year.