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Three Poems

Inside Zelli’s at Night between the Wars

“The nigger drummer waved”*

–and I swayed how what I imagined palm trees to sway
–ignored the gay Parisians around me, their white faces lit
by candles on tables, by gas lights
–like palm trees: I held my arms up—
–you could see my black fingers moving the physical air
working the winds around me

“Damn good drummer”

–I rattled my knees, brought my hands down and placed them there
like Josephine, I bowed my legs and wobbled them back and forth
–I felt the rhythm, the common time of it, the heartbeat of it, and I
–danced as surely my ancestors in Africa–
–closed my eyes and felt the heat of the continent

“The drummer shouted”

–my eyes opened up so I could see what—

“the drummer chanted. Then turned to his sticks.”

–I chanted back
–sensed the Parisians’ eyes on my bared back
–I shimmied so that my beaded hem bucked and clattered:
an accompanying rhythm, my legs their own sticks, his sticks an extension,
his sticks actual tree trunks
his sticks Congo worthy

“the drummer sang softly.”

— I stopped dancing. his voice hushed in the timbre of his drum, in the volume of the band, in Montmartre, in the waters across the Mediterranean, washed to Algeria, traveling down to Côte d’Ivoire, from here: the drummer sang softly, dulce, inaudibly soft.

*all quotes from “The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway



A Veritable Incident

“A veritable incident as seen by myself in Centerville.” –Eastman Johnson

Had I access to one of them horses,
I’d take you,
I’d take Josep and Mae,
and we would ride away
away, we would ride away

I can get a horse
You and me, we feign sleep
then I’ll take you, and Josep and Mae
and we will ride away
away, we will ride away

I have one of those horses,
come, my love, let’s grab Josep and Mae
while the moon is just a sliver of light
quiet the baby, hush the child, we’re riding
away, away, we are riding away.




I’ll tell you what you want me to if I can be free
It is cold here, and I don’t know the old England—
This is all new to me.

I’ll tell you what you want me to if I can be free
I would traverse this coast on foot, float down
The Atlantic to warmer waters.

I’ll tell you anything. Yes, say ‘witch.’ Yes, say ‘spell’
I don’t care for tea or the way you speak, the
Way you don’t sing.

I close my eyes, I’ll cast a spell for me and say aloud: Yes.
I see waters the color of the stones found on the shores
And palm fronds waving. . .

I don’t hurt the children, I say. I say, “I do not hurt them.”
I say the devil came, I say anything, I say it because I think
They’ll uncage me

I say anything. I tell them stories of animals with the minds of men
Stories of dances and cats bidding the devil’s doing if
They’ll have me no more

I tell them because I want to be free, if they want me
No more with the family, no more in Salem, no more coldness
I’ll tell them a story.

DeMisty D. Bellinger lives and teaches in Massachusetts. Her chapbook, Rubbing Elbows, is available at Finishing Line Press. She has a husbandand twin daughters, but wants a cat, too. Her website is demistybellinger.com.