Featured Poet Alan King

I have Alan King on speed dial because he’s a great favorite of mine. His stories of growing up black illuminate the world, proving the emotional difference between black and white adolescents is just that they live in different kitchens. There’s robust good will beneath King’s words, giving street life a majesty, rotating hard times to applause lines. All poets cooperate with chance when they set out to write, and it is what King parlays with good control. We don’t need a translator for Alan King. With confidence and strength he brings to the poetry table the way people really feel; and shows us how a credentialed poet can document that.
— Grace Cavalieri

THE BLOW

 

I was at home lying in bed,

listening to the world wake around me:

a woman yelled from the street,

I’m gon’ fuck you up.

 

She and her man knuckled up.

They were undercard fighters

no one bothered watching, but me.

 

He threw a jab that barely missed.

And I thought about that day

at recess: I slapped Nicole, thinking

it was the only way she’d chase me

like she did the popular boys. In fifth grade,

she was taller than me

with a body like the women

in my mother’s church,

the ones whose juicy curves

made my brain bright as a Lemonhead.

 

I watched the match

from my window, the couple’s clumsy

footwork almost tripping them up.

Bring it on! he spat.

 

And I can still hear Nicole

panting behind me, yelling:

I’ma punch your face!

 

A week before the chase,

we were in Kevin’s room

talking about the girls at school—

which one’s tongue we’d let

tango across our own.

And which one’s legs

we’d gladly nibble along.

 

My nerves fizzed like Pop Rocks

in Nicole’s mouth.

 

My boys laughed

when her name came up.

Kevin said, Good luck

trying to get her attention.

 

The boxers outside

were still at it—she dodged his jabs.

Her right hook slammed his jaw.

 

God damn it! he yelled

and the fight was over.

 

I watched him hold his jaw,

and recalled how my ego took a blow

when I saw Nicole

hanging with a boy too cool

to wear his pants on his waist.

 

This is the cost of not saying

what I felt. I should've told Nicole,

after catching her scent in the hall

before lunch, I'll never think

of strawberry Bubblicious the same.

 

I should've made her laugh,

joking 'bout the gym teacher—

Hulk Hogan's look-alike with black hair—

or offer her some of my spicy fries.

 

I wish I hadn't made her 

a cyclone of curses and punches

spiraling towards me.

 

Alan King is a Caribbean American, whose parents emigrated from Trinidad and Tobago to the U.S. in the 1970s. He's a husband, father, and communications professional who blogs about art and social issues at alanwking.com. He's also the author of POINT BLANK (Silver Birch Press, 2016) and DRIFT (Willow Books, 2012). A Cave Canem graduate fellow, he holds a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the Stonecoast Program at the University of Southern Maine. He's a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee and was also nominated three times for a Best of the Net selection. He lives with his family in Bowie, Maryland. 

 

Grace Cavalieri is founder and producer of “The Poet and the Poem“ on public radio, now from the Library of Congress. She celebrates 40 years on-air in 2017. She’s has 18 books and chapbooks published, the latest is WITH (Somondoco Press, 2016.) Cavalieri has had 26 plays produced on American stages. Her newest play is “ANNA NICOLE: BLONDE GLORY.” The play is inspired by Anna Nicole: Poems, published by GOSS183. Her poetry has been featured on Garrison Keillor’s “Verse Daily” and Ted Kooser’s “American Life in Poetry.”  She is the managing poetry editor for PoetsArtists.