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There Are No Names For Red.

The following cantos are excerpted from one long poem called "There Are No Names for Red." It is a poem dialoguing with history and the paintings of African American novelist and painter Percival Everett.
There Are No Names For Red


 And the sky is red
 And the moon
 And light is this rain.

 This is all the terror we can bear:

 the moment between flame
 and where shadow begins
 but only so much as can be cupped
 in a child's palm

 and yet to say: the loved one
 has slipped to ghost.


 Winter is defeated by a flock of geese flying towards the
 The sea is only as lonely as a single conch, or a sand
 frittered away on an impossible dream. Even this bold
 black line.
 The Igbo believe the sun is only the aura of a creature
 we have
 no name for. What is song here is ritual in another


 That woman in a New York cafe cannot escape what it
 to sound like a Boer. If I were a better man, I would
 have compassion.
 The thing is this: the dead won't stay buried. Emily said,
 about the woman
 on the bus. She said are you going to the other side?
 How easy it is for light reflecting off a polished wood
 floor to bend into metaphor.
 Fire, water and mud. What a curious way to make a
 Gravity wasn't the apple to Newton's head and yet he
 claims discovery.
 But the moment you point to the black dog shivering
 against the red door
 in the relentless rain, you lose it.


 To be sure there are lines, shapes and swirls of color
 Like Van Gogh it is what is not alive that lives here.
 Imaginary trees in the throes of convulsions and a
 that is totemic not atavistic. Though
 there is sacrifice, there is compassion too.
 And this is why we fear spiders. In a pinch they will
 outsmart us.
 A dog on a moonlit night.
 A dog on a moonlit night.
 A dog on a moonlit night.
 No, it's just night spinning its lies.
 See this knife. This knife is dull. This knife pulls a
 jagged wish
 through oils as thick as butter. This knife is sacrifice.
 This knife is the priest.
 Percival's heart bleeds on a stiff white canvas window.
 And beyond? A dog and a moonlit night.

Los Angeles
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Author:Abani, Chris
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Poem
Date:Nov 1, 2007
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