May 2010

Jamaal May


Jamaal May's work has appeared or is forthcoming in Indiana Review, Atlanta Review, The MacGuffin, Verse Daily, and The Collagist among other magazines and anthologies. He has received a Pushcart nomination, an International Publication Prize from Atlanta Review, and a Cave Canem Fellowship. Jamaal is an M.F.A. candidate at Warren Wilson College and teaches poetry in public schools through the Inside Out Literary Arts Project.


—after Patrick Rosal

fire for heat
fire for light
fire for casting figures on a dungeon wall

fire for palms that shiver
fire for keeping beasts at bay
fire for sending up bottle rockets
fire to roast

fire to singe
fire to take the eyebrows
fire for the kettle, the boil, the hops and the mash
fire for the brew, the barrel, the shot glass
fire for the yeast
fire to make it rise
fire to fuse rubber soles to collapsed crossbeams
fire to make coal knuckle-white

fire for Gehenna
fire for Dante
fire for a well dressed effigy
fire for readied aim

fire to watch the sorceress by
fire for teaching her shadow how to dance

fire for ancient reasons, to call down rain
fire to catch it
fire to turn it into steam

fire for the stockpile of books
fire for the bible-black cloak tied to a stake

fire for smoke signals
fire to call in reinforcements
fire for stories to surround like cavalry

fire to shape gun muzzle and magazine
fire for the pins and screws
fire to leap from the gut of a furnace
fire for Hephaestus
fire for the forge that folds steel like a flag
fire to curl worms like cigarette ash
fire to give them back to the earth
fire for pyres' sake

fire for skin
fire for licking the toes of a quiet brown man
fire for his home
fire for this sand, to coax it into glass
fire to cure the mirrors
fire to cure the leeches
fire to cure the leaf
fire to compose a nocturne of cinders
fire to remix it against a break-beat
fire for the roof, for letting the muthafucka' burn

fire for fuel
fire for fields
fire for torches so everyone can see the rope
fire to make the cross visible for several yards
fire for filling the dragon's mouth
fire for the field hand's fourth death
fire for smoking out tangos
fire to stoke like rage and fill the sky with their remains

fire to make twine fall from bound wrists
fire to mark them all
fire to bubble black any flesh it touches, as it frees



Jamaal May: Poetry
Copyright ©2010 The Cortland Review Issue 47The Cortland Review