John Warner Smith
Harlem the Morning After
By nightfall Harlem knew
who shot and killed the prince.
Mayhem and Molotov exploded.
Billy clubs and guns whipped rioters.
Someone bombed a mosque
and blew its roof off.
The next morning, like dripstone
in a cave, icicles hung
from verandas and zigzag stairs.
Amber glowed in street lights
as frozen as the siren and bell
of a parked red pumper.
Inside that crystal crevasse,
on the precipice of a winter storm,
a steel door slammed shut.
Silenced, Malcolm’s words
soared from the bell towers
like a Sunday contralto.
John Warner Smith is a Cave Canem fellow whose poems have appeared in or are forthcoming in Ploughshares, Callaloo, The Worcester Review, Fourteen Hills, Pembroke, Kestrel, African American Review, American Athenaeum and other literary journals. His full-length manuscript was a finalist in the 2013 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award competition. A resident of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he directs a statewide organization dedicated to improving public education. He also teaches English and African American Literature at Southern University in Baton Rouge. He earned his MFA at the University of New Orleans.