From “Negus in Paris”

L. Lamar Wilson

I smile at a cop for the first time in years—her skin
Of caramel & whey, kissed the way French kiss to say
Bonjour, not Je te veux, by a pale woman who, like her,
Dons wolves’ flesh, the darkest blue, which should quicken
My gait, exacerbate the arrhythmia that’s my birthright.
I want you, my eyes intone. Embrasse moi. I’m so furtive
In this city that keeps me alert when I’d otherwise sleep,
Whose dawn & dusk hover like an osprey perched,
Just above the surface, before talons & neck break
The Seine’s cyan mirror, perch in its beak. How prey
Surrender here. Such quiet everywhere I step. Such
Hunger in every mouth. In the baths, I kiss a Gabonese
Beau who says his grandma’s a mermaid queen. Here,
Anatole’s birthright manifests unfettered. Here, where

Men feast on flesh inside a maze so intricate & full of
Delights, it’s safe to get lost in the heat. Anatole dives
Into a pool’s deep end. Finds my oaken roots, his
Surest way out. Writhes from trunk to limb to stem
To crown, as if without his tongue wrapt in mine,
He’ll drown. Nestlé ici dans ma canopée, I lull. Tu vas
Me manquer. Je vais t’appeler demain, he waves, leaping
Into the warren’s pulse. So much meat left to devour.
I know he won’t call, & he does not surprise. When
The sun alights the darkest corridor’s corners, I climb
The winding stairs of another underground railroad
To another ancient wonder. Peer into the Seine’s green
Eyes. See my distorted lips part & turn suddenly
Upward, wisp of wind at their back. Mouth Wake up!


Art by Maggie Nowinski.

L. Lamar Wilson is the author of SACRILEGION (Carolina Wren Press, 2013) and PRIME (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2014), with Phillip B.Williams, Rickey Laurentiis, Saeed Jones, and Darrel Alejandro Holnes, edited by Jericho Brown. Wilson, an Affrilachian Poet and Cave Canem and Callaloo graduate fellow, earned an MFA from Virginia Tech and is completing a doctorate in African American and multi-ethnic American poetics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He teaches on the creative writing faculty at The University of Alabama.

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