David M. Taylor

My Second Poem

I wrote about a high school girl
who had a father with angry fists
and a mother who liked pills.

One night she kissed me
in a high school parking lot at dusk
while I fumbled with the panties
held tightly against her virginity.

She was white. I wasn’t.

And I knew how this would end.

I knew before the sun had set,
before I said hello to her in the hallways,
or dreamt about her at night.

I knew before I was even born
that her father would come to yell
at his white daughter for being
with someone like me.

That his fists would be sledgehammers
against my thin frame,
that my body would break
under the weight of his boots.

I knew the whiteness of his rage,
that she would want to do something
other than cry.

But as I read over my poem,
past the mixed metaphors and uncontrolled syntax,
past the taste of blood and dirt and hate,
I remembered that I think I loved her.


Black Man Poetry

I used to write black man poems
about being black and a man.
But my words were discarded
in digital trashcans by white editors
wanting more—
a reason to demonstrate they understood
injustice and poverty,
food stamps and a dream deferred.

So I wrote about dreadlocks and marijuana,
stories about drunken fists shattering
my twelve-year-old bones
by my father who struggled
against the shackles of history,
the rage of being less than.

I said my brother was high,
got shot for being black
while walking across the street
to our barren apartment.

But then that didn’t matter–
I was simply a black man writing
black man poetry.

Luckily Ferguson became hip
and white people paid better
when I talked about how black lives matter,
commercialized history chained
black men to textbooks,
whitewashed oppression and apartheid.

And I wrote about black fists penetrating
swollen skies and teargas raped
broken neighborhoods
while school children hid under
their beds until morning came.

But I finally ran out of John Singleton plotlines
and talked about how the Cosby Show
made me believe in the power of education,
the audacity to want more than
twenty minutes in an afterschool special.

I said my parents were both doctors,
that I never grew up wanting—
my story was as simple as childhood.

And then Bill Cosby turned out to be a rapist.


David M. Taylor is a professor of English at St. Louis Community College-Meramec. His work has appeared in various magazines including Milk Sugar, Anthology, The Harrow, TimbookTu, and Sniffy Linings Press. He also has three poetry chapbooks—M&Ms and Other Insignificant Poems, Two Cobras in a Ritual Dance, and Life’s Ramblings.