Victory

I killed him on a summer night.

The moon shines on him fully.

The wolves now come to crack his bones.

Tonight I killed my bully.

No tears I shed, although I sigh.

His corpse swings on the pulley.

The crows will pluck his filmy eyes.

Tonight I killed my bully.

I dreamed about it for some time.

My mind would get all woolly,

And it felt good to shear his throat.

Tonight I killed my bully.

My cats and I pretend that we are

hiding in the gully.

But really we are in my room.

Tonight I killed my bully.

 

Haunting Melody

You haunt the lake now

Melody?

What are you searching for?

 

You cry aloud so mournfully!

It pierces to the core…

 

I see translucent tears aglow!

How can a spirit cry?

 

It’s me you look for,

Melody?

I didn’t want to die.

 

I ask forgiveness,

Melody,

for holding you below

 

The dark and murky

water where

you didn’t want to go.

 

Do not approach me,

Melody,

with eyes of fire and hate

 

You said you loved,

but I did not,

and now it is too late.

 

So I insisted,

Melody,

that we could both be free;

 

I didn’t know the

end of you

would be the

end of me.

For Real (or Ode to a Conspiracy)

Author’s Note: I remember standing on the stoop of my grandmother’s brownstone in Harlem, and we watched a line of people form because the drug supply had come in. There were young men in business suits, mothers with baby carriages, and wide mix of ages. My grandmother turned to me and said, “This sure is a weak society out here.” Given the time she grew up in, and the circumstances she had to endure, I had no answer. Did our ancestors really fight so hard, so long to survive, so we could kill ourselves, and say it was someone else’s fault?

 

“The CIA put drugs in our neighborhoods.”

And we used them.

 

“The government put guns in our neighborhood.”

We used those too.

 

So let me ask you: If I put a bomb on your doorstep,

and you take it inside, and it blows up on you,

who’s responsible for the damage it caused?

 

The key to countering conspiracies is sabotage,

not compliance.

 

Break the strings

 

Become a real man

instead of a ‘real nigga’

 

And free yourself.

For real.

 

Black Magi

Black Magi

your strength is wasted,

killing over slabs of

cracked, crumbling concrete

that will outlast

the return

of your bones

to dust

 

Black Magi

your lives are wasted

when the blood

of your

slain brother

soaks your soul,

and the wails

of his mother

are your lullaby

as you look at the same

Moonlight

through the bars of your cell,

and she does the same

through her gone baby’s eyes.

 

Black Magi

your knowledge is wasted

in kilos of grams,

hidden in luxury cars,

poisoning our future,

your neighborhood,

chipping at foundations

you desperately need.

But you got yours, right?

 

Black Magi

your wealth is wasted

on basketball shoes that are

Free

to the person they’re named after,

made by slaves in other foreign lands

(you know you’re not home, right?)

 

Black Magi

Gather your belongings

Now

 

Call your loved ones to your side

Today

 

Black Magi

the stars bid you

travel far,

and one of them falls

when one of you

turns back to die

 

Black Magi

Your son has questions

only you

can answer

 

Black Magi

Your daughter

has smiles

only you

can share

 

Black Magi

Your woman

cries tears

only you

can dry

 

Black Magi

The years of

your harvest

are spent in rehab,

then just spent,

And poisoned seeds

again take root

through the husk

of what used to be

Fertile and Wise and Strong,

the shell of what used to be

You

 

Black Magi

Stop

Think

Repent

But mostly,

Stop.

No, My Love

No, my love

you will

not

speak of things

done in darkness,

of

things that strip you

of your clothing,

then your innocence,

and maybe,

if you’re really, really good…

 

your life

 

No, my love

you will

not

speak of the pain

in your heart

and long showers that

never

purify

your tainted soul

 

 

No, my love

you will

not

speak of my cruelty,

my cursing,

my fists,

my feet.

 

No, my love

you will

smile,

and the mask of

our dead love

will harden

like a cocoon.

 

And then,

 

let only

fantasy butterflies

alight from your tongue.

 

Happy Valentine’s Dead (3)

Too early to go home, too late to go back to the office.

I’d put something maudlin on the stereo, and grieve with an expensive bottle of single malt; the picture of that in my head was too pathetic, even for me.

I went to the Full Moon Saloon instead; it was everything it promised.

My favorite barmaid, Sandy, was there; she didn’t like the term though. She preferred bartender, because she had her reasons, which oddly enough, were pretty valid.

“Hey, Kent.”

“Hey Sandy.”

“I heard.”

“Who hasn’t?”

She leaned forward, searching my face, all compassion. “What can I get you?”

“The usual, stronger than usual.”

She gave a little smile, but there was concern as she pulled back. “You sure you want to…?”

I sighed. “Sandy, I’ve been second guessing myself since I heard about Valentine. I just had a young cop get in my face and second guess me too. I consider this place a refuge, and a haven, which may be the same thing, but I don’t care right now, and I’d like to think I know my own mind, at least here.

“So yeah, I’m sure.”

“Hey,” she said, leaning back over. “This place is a refuge for you?”

“Yeah.”

She smiled. “Does that make me your refugee?”

I groaned, smiling in spite of the fact my heart felt like a sledgehammer hit it.

“Really? Is that the best you got?”

“Ha! I got a million more like ‘em.”

“That’s why you’re here.”

She stroked my cheek, then gave it a little slap.

“Fuck you, big man.” She went down the bar to make my drink.

“When I watch you walk away, anything’s possible.”

She looked over her shoulder, then it registered, and her mouth dropped.

I started laughing, then she joined in.

We actually did have a thing once, but she wasn’t going to walk the path I chose, and truth be told, I didn’t want her to do it either; she had an innate sweetness, despite the jadedness of the surroundings she worked in.

The place was a dive, but it was ‘our dive.’

She came back with the drink, and poured a shot for herself.

“To Valentine,” she said. We dribbled some of our drinks on the bar; she let it run down a bit, and the scent wafted up like sinful incense.

“So what happens now?”

“Word’s getting around; by tomorrow there’ll be a manhunt.”

“You in it?”

I sighed.
“No, Kent. C’mon. Those jackals that do this stuff for real are great at it, way better than guys like you.”

“I’m motivated.”

“By what? Were you…?”

“No. She was like a daughter to me. Sort of.”

 You didn’t admire your daughter’s legs. or let her roam the world in short, tight dresses killing people for obscene amounts of cash.

“You, and other guys like you. C’mon, Kent! She’s played the role on stage a million times to guys like you.”

“You keep saying that, Sandy. What do you mean by that?”

“Careworn, world-weary. Guys like you, carrying weight you no longer need to carry, having problems that should have gone away by middle age. Guys like you, trapped by money and no way to get out ‘cept through the morgue.”

She put her hand across my folded forearms.

“It was never going to be enough, Kent. Don’t you see that? You’ve got blood on your hands, your conscience, and no one to inherit anything good, because nothing good came out of it.”

She dug her nails in a bit.

“All you have to show, for all you’ve done, for all the years you’ve been supposedly cleaning up the streets and changing things for others, and profiting from it, is an onset of cirrhosis, and a dead young girl with her guts steaming in the rain.”

Her words felt like someone jammed a double-barrel to my head and pulled both triggers.

I felt myself convulse, and she took her hand away.

There was such a rush of mixed emotions, I wound up acting on none of them: I wanted to slap her, I wanted to throw the glass as hard as I could and watch it shatter, the way Valentine shattered when the bomb went off. I wanted to shoot something or someone, I wanted to scream, and I wanted to die.

I was out of tears, but my face must’ve gone rumply like I was going to cry again.

“Sorry, Kent. I care about you; I don’t want you to do this.”

“You’re really saying you don’t know if I can.”

She turned that over, took a sip of her drink, then focused back on me.

“Yeah, at the core of it, that’s what I’m saying. Let the hounds loose, and they’ll find him. Swoop in then, and take him away and butcher him all night when they do, but don’t join the chase.

“Please, Kent. Don’t do it.”

I took a sip of the malt.

“You had me at ‘butcher’….”

“Kent?”

I took another sip.

“Ahhh, dammit, Sandy…”

She beamed, leaned over, kissed me quick.

“That’s my man…”

We had another round, and I caught a cab home, and watched the rain run down the window, and the red neon lights colored it, and it was Valentine’s blood again, running down the window, down the gutters, down the drain, down to wherever the damned souls go, crying for peace.

 

*****************

 

When I got in, I booked a mid morning flight to Valentine’s hometown.

I hung up, feeling a bit guilty, remembering everything Sandy said, but there was one thing more important than anything else that stood out.

“Sorry, love.

“You really did have me at ‘butcher.’ ”

 

 

Happy Valentine’s Dead (2)

When I stopped bawling, there was work to do.

It should’ve frightened me that I wanted to be the one to do it, and if I’d known the depravity my own heart would reveal, I would’ve put a bullet in my head that instant.

But Valentine always said I was a hardhead.

It was raining. There was a white sheet over a red blob, and the sheet was soaked through.

“You sure about this, sir?” the cop said, standing just outside the crime tape.

I wasn’t, and he took my hesitation as an answer.

He waved over the ME. I knew him: Larson Hughes, smartest in the business.

Hughes looked up, saw me, put something away in a case, and walked over, peeling off a bloody latex glove.

“Kent.” He nodded.

“Larson. What happened.”

“Explosive of some type.”

“Thrown at her?”

“No. Found traces of it in a briefcase she was carrying.”

My heart sank.

“What color was it?”

“The case?”

“No, Larson, her blood. Yes, the fucking case.”

“Silver. Why?”

“Cuz he gave it to her,” the cop said. “There were money fragments all over the place.”

“Larson, shut this kid up.”
“You opened the door, Kent.”

“I didn’t give her that case. I paid her two days ago, and she disappeared. That’s how we worked. That’s how we always worked: I paid her, and she went away while the cops scrambled their eggs and came up with nothing.”

The cop’s jaw hardened.

“Walk away, Gilliam.” Larson advised.

Gilliam took a moment to let me feel the weight of his wrath, and walked off.

“Don’t be stupid, Kent. You’re gonna need them at some point.”

“This ain’t that point.”

Larson sucked in a breath.

“You’ve been at this awhile, so I’m gonna let it go, because I know you know better. Don’t be an asshole on this. Everyone knows what this girl did, they just can’t prove it.

“Either she met somebody better, or the whole thing was a tragic accident, and there’s nothing that’s ever gonna get proven either way.

“You know that too. Don’t’cha.”

I nodded. “You know what I have to do then, ‘don’t cha.’ ”

“If I catch you Kent, you know what I have to do.”

I nodded again.

“Too bad, Kent. Sweet kid, when she didn’t have a gun.”

“Somebody unsweetened her a long time ago, Larson. I need to find out who, and why?”

“Does it matter? Chick assassins are as commonplace now as—“

The look on my face stopped whatever he was going to say next.

He looked away, lit a cigarette. “Head back. Get outta here. I’ll see to it she’s taken care of.”

“Thanks, Larson.”

He waved and turned away.

I stood there a moment longer, looking at the white sheet soaked red, the blood and rain mingling in rivulets that sluiced down the drain in the gutter.

“Ah, Valentine.”

I understood Larson’s point; he’d known her too, before I did, in a different life, when she was a teenager. A lot had happened, and he tried to mentor her, but she wanted something more than the straight and narrow, and my other friend provided that, for awhile.

She would’ve moved on from me too, in time. Perhaps she already had someone else lined up. She never really worked for anyone; she was freelance, and handled her own affairs.

Her rep in the underground markets was impeccable. I’d been lucky to get her.

Most of my problems were gone, but not all, and none of them were good enough to get her like this.

I had to work up a list of her enemies, and her competition; there was room for overlap there, but true pros always left it at competition, and never made it personal.

Valentine had been one of those.

There was the matter of an estate, if she had one, and I decided to start there.

Someone made a ton of money if he was able to take her out, and I decided to find out whom that might be.

A niggling feeling told me I was getting into deep waters: Valentine was international: passports, money, tech, anonymous drops, first class hotels and flights. She knew the ropes, made the loopholes, and walked wires that would make other assassins quit.

She was the best, and someone had taken that away.

I wouldn’t be the only one hunting whoever it was that thought they could replace her.

They were off to a good start, but Valentine was well-liked.

Whoever you are, you better have killer legs and a sunny personality. Being a crack shot might aid your cause too. Explosives were over-reach, cowardly even; just put it down, and slink away like a vole.

She was the only one I knew her age who would get my jazz references.

The last thing I’d said to her was the opening line from a jazz standard, and she knew what to say.

That alone was cause enough to marry her, in my book.

“I’ll find them, Valentine. And when I do, they’re gonna wish I blew them up.”