Reggie points at crooked lines on a piece of dirty paper.
spent a week casing Miller’s Hardware like a fox hitting a henhouse.
Chevis sit back, dumb as a bag of hammers, remembering
times with Black Jack’s boys chasing Villa round
Mexico with a finger faster than his head.
he pretends to know this caper’s take’ll make up
for Peoria when that smartass teller flipped a switch.
Black and Shug scan the room for folks paying
too much attention, or conspicuously unconcerned.
Mudflap burns a Cuban, studying a newspaper like a painting
eyes perusing pages like it was that picture above his head
like he’d see Jack Johnson knock Gentleman Jim out again.
smoke snakes under bowler brims, searching the felt for escape.
Charnita weaves through the bar slow collecting
eyes following her hips like the ball in a movie sing-a-long.
a feathered stole chokes the chill from her throat.
she give’em thick lips and long legs curving like a chair leg
her laying down red heels like blood puddles.
her blue coat won’t hide the bundle of butt she made
little effort to conceal, to reveal to the right man
but there ain’t none, cause she the kind of woman crooks shy
like sticky money, bad getaway cars and White Citizens.
Reggie’s eyes try to warn her away before
she get to the table, but every look is a come-on
a good reason for getting close to somebody.
this ain’t no time for social talk, but
Charnita ignores all signals and good sense.
the others don’t see her till she's too close not
to hear their plan. she looks at the table
the map of the store. they straighten up.
ten eyes work her body from leg to head
admiring, desiring, despising the interruption.
nothing moves, like the whole room’s holding its breath
except for a boa-feather falling through the smoke
bout to hit the ground loud as a shoe.
Brandon D. Johnson
Brandon D. Johnson is author of Love’s Skin, Man Burns Ant, The Strangers Between, and co-author of The Black Rooster Social Inn: This Is The Place. He is published in several journals and anthologies, including Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade and The Listening Ear: Cave Canem Poets Look South, and Beyond the Frontier: African American Poetry for the 21st Century. He is a Cave Canem Graduate Fellow. He was a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Born in Gary, Indiana, he received a BA from Wabash College and his JD from Antioch School of Law. He has also been a photographer for many years. Mr. Johnson lives with his wife and children in Washington, DC.
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