Gregory Pardlo



Those hammer-ons on Over the Hills made my fingers bleed.
That is, my addiction to them made my fingers bleed.

Child of Crowley, Bukka White, paddling hips across the stage.
Time’s architect, sketch blueprints lesser innovators read.

Sight the neck like a rifle barrel, diagnose the truss rod sound.
Let’s caress the fretwork, inlays pearl and filigreed.

Contracts offer details juke growlers shrug off like sheet music.
“How much,” they only want to know, “am I guaranteed?”

On the frontiers of sound we are nocturnal, we move in shivers,
we watch bobcats, as night-blooming cereus lingers, feed.

My mind is a fuzz box today. Hellhound’s got my scent, cornered me
in Room 12-B with the hangman’s disposition whiskey drinkers need.

The left hand’s a gyromantic dancer, sinister. The cat’s cradle
of tablature captures the dragonfly’s hover, its speed.

At fourteen I walked the rivulets. A pilgrimage. Late harvest.
I cut my teeth on a washtub bass line crawling like a centipede.

Spirits filled burn piles on the beach. Smoke and salt infused
the fuselage that hummed the lunar music six strings received.

Shoulda quit you on the shoulder, G, singing backward alphabets
of sky. Fingerprinted, you thought they made your fingers bleed.

After Charles Caryl Coleman’s View of Vesuvius: Effect 11:25AM


In truth, every line
is a horizon. Sink
the ship that carves
a dark rune below
the line that breaks
me in two, the space
purpling like the skin
of a rotten orange, and
I could be mistaken
for a failed field of dew.
While heat unflowers
my face there is a house
burning inside my house,
a steam engine chugging
under my peasant’s cap.
Come closer. Imagine
what’s in me that just
won’t be contained.