Derrick Asks to
See My Horns
Derrick was a thin boy
whose skin hung on him
like jell-o, acne, farmer's tan dirt mustache, glasses, and b.o.
my roommate. freshman orientation.
southeast Ohio. he lived
near coal mines
and a couple of factories
that moved to somewhere
other poor people lived.
Derrick and i spent the night
on ideas, politics, religion, anything
free. holed up in a dorm
room on pell grants and a couple
of cokes from the cafeteria.
Derrick believed jesus was the savior.
Derrick never met any jews before.
Derrick thought jews killed jesus.
Derrick was told by his family and fathers
sitting on wooden pews in sunday schools
in the country's midsection
jews were the children of satan.
Derrick asked to see my horns.
it is 1993.
the drive from chicago brought me
past gas stations selling fried chicken
tiny coops of with birds walking near the tumble
weed of frito-lay bags. all the green south of Columbus.
Derrick throughout i came on a jack-ass pulled trolley
the red-star line, a dirty subway car, something
with wheels and borscht.
i thought he thought perhaps i played. jazz.
Chicago-boy Benny Goodman, my quartet
would late-night the lone deli in Athens
Ohio. Zachary's, a New York yid transplant
where the three Black professors on campus
held court around bourbon to talk the night
i thought he thought i was a rabbi's son.
a shofar blower. announcer of days. usher
of the new year, ram horn trumpeter
blasting babylon awake in the year 57-something
or he didn't think
about jews or thought what he was told:
we were the wayward Judas, deicide
holocaust justified, devil kid christ killas
1-8-7 on an undercover g-d. Derrick was dead
serious though when he asked
to see my horns.
zits like ripe cherries
crushed on his open face
sweet and stupid
sweaty in a bunked
room on the north green
in the cricket hum
of an august night
Derrick's eyes magnified
behind his thick frames
when i pulled back the phantom
yarmulke i didn't wear
and showed him.---
©2013 Haymarket Books