February 2002

Romus Simpson


Romus Simpson, a Los Angeles-based poet living and working in central California, is the veteran of more than 320 performances, including The House of Blues, The Presidentís Commission on Race, The Queen Mary, The Black Family Reunion, the Love Jones movie premier, The world Stage, When Word Collide Spoken Word Festival in Long Beach, Ca. as well as numerous universities, schools, radio programs, local cable shows, and poetry houses. With a BA in English from Cal State Long Beach, he is a former member of their performance troupe, The Rainbow Voices. He writes to illustrate the everyday joy of the people around him.
speaking of ms. tillman  

ms. tillman
strolled these streets wide & braless
waz any man's equal
waz good & bad
& fair & not fair
sometimes came into the yard
to deliver oranges from her tree
to bring back a ball or repay a loan
or to fight or score dope

she once wrecked a mini mart
some woman cut in line
ms. tillman 3 folks back told her no
the woman refused to be graceful
caught ms. tillman's fist in the
bun of her braids
bled among the tic tacs & honey buns
kicked bread & dorritos around the room
& ms. tillman left dignified & cursing slightly
four wire men urging her into the impala
the asian store owner screaming things
that translate across languages

then at the black history program
at our elementary school
her favorite crispus attucks
(she had heard hiz name once)
she told them to be quiet
she told them twice
respect the history
the wire men with her begged her to be cordial
then in the dark a ruckus
the slide projector toppled
ms. tillman dragging some woman up the aisle
yelling about martin luther king
then hitting her with a chair

& at the recreation center
after being refused more cheese
& peanut butter & salami
& being too late for the powdered milk
she came back with a knife between her breasts
backed the constituents into the corner
said her babies had to eat

then that infamous incident
the mayor's inaugural ball
she had voted for him
so she went to hiz event
brought her own liquor
wanted to be on stage
asked about a job in city hall
insisted on taking him home to see her roaches
she destroyed two tables fighting with the guards

but there waz that christmas
when no men were around
she saved her 15th of the month check
& gathered a few other sistuhs
told them to come meet her at the thrift shop
scared the white woman there
paid 20 dollars for a buick full of broken toys
fixed them herself
& went door to door singing

& there waz the thanksgiving
in the bleak brown november
when she negotiated with the super market manager
for quick sale turkey parts & cornmeal
she borrowed a large pot & made decorations from
leaves & flowers she cut from the school's bushes
she had a custodian steal light bulbs & wire
& strung them across the room like heavy stars
she had seven families sleepy full
they played gap band & al green records
shared what marijuana they could afford
& passed the liquor around

i say that whoever killed ms. tillman
over some dope & a grudge
whoever stopped our fannie lou hamer
who had stood at the center of democracy
asking fundamental questions
whoever left her laying helpless
in the abandoned tenements
with no relative intellect of natural forces
or of those who watched her face dawning
in the door like a six o'clock sun
whoever destroyed the new mary bethune
whoever took her light & made
the streets a grade darker
whoever drew that pistol against that
medium brown faced loping moon of a woman
u have silenced a strong free voice from my childhood
u have done evil that poverty & scheming men could not do
u have taken the tumult from our blocks
u have made ms. tillman an allegory



he would not come home   

he would not come home
the empty streets loitered then wandered on
the lights came on & lit the stoops
voices arrived at someone else's door
it was a tuesday without color
it arrived on sore feet then sat at the door crying
a tuesday slow with lions and shadows

& he would not come home
from around the corner
where he lay in a vacant apartment high
some other broad with his penis in her hand
night moved across every room of the evening
like a visitor casting dark spells that bloom in
the awnings & absences

he waz somewhere in the great hush of hiz high
somewhere beyond fever
absent in hiz own eyes
he swore to her that he waz better now
but the athenian ruins of hiz face catalogued decay
he waz losing the intimate parts of himself
he waz becoming more sky than man

chicago in the brown january
snow flurries & cigarettes
he would not come home
three days gone without laughter
without hiz bare switch thin shadow arriving leaning across the door grinning
chocolates in one hand & beer in the other removing hiz cap
then on the couch how hiz beard gently scraped her
& she found hiz lips & pressed against him
under hiz long arm & into hiz huge knuckles & hands

she said loving him waz like drinking a deep winter
the windows closed their eyes
the street drifted into dreams
nothing moved lightposts rose into silver silence
the tenements stood abrupt & hollow
he would not come home
& at the door all night
silence... & suddenly silence



Romus Simpson: Poetry
Copyright © 2002 The Cortland Review Issue 19The Cortland Review