Look how unhappy you were.

after Jean-Michel Basquiat

there is such a thing as forgiveness,
and it is the water, here,
engulfing my waist. my hands up,
smother this blackness, lord,
and remove this flesh. i see him.
the lord. in the faces of men
like my father. my father’s father.
i see him. the pastor. ready to remove
all this sin. all this touching
of boys in dark places. we’re both
black around the eyes. our mouths
mimic each other’s: we come gathered
like murder of crows. he opens his beak,
out comes scripture. i close my eyes,
release tears. take me lord, oh sweet
river of purity. chaos sweeps the land.
and it is the land of the living
i fear the most. the way boys grope
this body to feel alive. the way i give
them my father’s name. we’re both
dirty creatures. but not for long.
soon, the pastor will baptize me
in the name of the father,
the son, and the holy spirit.
soon, i’ll molt this blackness, let
it cipher into the waves.
i plug my nose. smile sweet.
there is such a thing as forgiveness.
i have found it, here, inside the
pastor’s grip. the water-coffin
keeping what’s left of me. i see him.
my old self. ol’ luther. look how
unhappy you were. how sin
has taken all of you.
Luther Hughes

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