Cowboy Neil @ Ground Zero
    Clarksdale, MS 2017

Cowboy Neil asks his guitar Louise
what it wants him to do to it before
playing it with his tongue. The white
students got a kick out of this and
couldn’t stop talking about it. One
wrote in his journal that Cowboy Neil
went down on his guitar and that he
had met God @ Ground Zero. In the
white mind, the black body is a god
and is hated.


King Tut
(Tutwiler, MS, 2017)

She wants to bring a dog back to Philadelphia with her.
She calls it King Tut, short for Tutwiler, after finding
it on the streets, or so she claims. I interject, “do you

know if he has a home?” She couldn’t answer. The
thought has yet to appear in her head (until I give
birth to it). I think of Europeans arriving on the shores

of Africa to confiscate black bodies, asking nothing of
their culture, history, or not wanting to be owned.


Clarksdale, MS (2017)

How does it feel to see
me a novelty?
A strange man walking
through your world.
Your gaze vaporous.
Empty of power.
Full of envy.
My crown of hair
dark and beautiful
as my skin.
I am walking.
I am leaving marks.
A tornado passing through.
The weatherman failed to
warn you in advance.
You are surprised.
Confounded by the sight
of this black body.


Elvis Alves is the author of the poetry collection Bitter Melon and the chapbook Ota Benga. His latest poetry collection, I am no battlefield but a forest of trees growing, is forthcoming from Franciscan University Press and is the winner of the 2017 Jacopone Da Todi Book Prize. Elvis lives in New York City with his family.



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