Ronaldo V. Wilson
January 2011

 

Vanessa Place [photo credit: Alex Forman]Ronaldo V. Wilson, Ph.D. is the author of Narrative of the Life of the Brown Boy and the White Man (University of Pittsburgh, 2008), winner of the 2007 Cave Canem Poetry Prize and Poems of the Black Object (Futurepoem Books, 2009), winner of Publishing Triangle’s 2010 Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry. He is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley, NYU's Graduate Creative Writing Program, and holds a PhD in English from the CUNY Graduate Center.  Wilson has held numerous fellowships to include the National Research Council Ford Foundation, Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, Cave Canem, Kundiman, Djerassi, and Yaddo.  Co-founder of the Black Took Collective, he teaches Creative Writing and African American Poetics and Literature at Mount Holyoke College.
 

POETICS STATEMENT IN THE GREAT AMERICAN GRILL

The chubby son in front of me, cow-licked & hotel sleepy, asks his tall, muscled father, “Is it possible to start a fire with just your hands?”  Not pondering in front of his row of French toast, he says to the boy, “No.”  To my right, a flip-flopped teenage girl is the big daughter of a giant in flesh tone pressure socks.  He’s thankful to have brought an extra pair of shorts after spilling syrup all down his front.  He moans, “Son of a gun,” before wiping himself down with a busser’s towel.  The daughter says, “I’m sorry,” twice, in the sweetest voice, before she adds, “The syrup’s more watery today.”  On my left, in white New Balance sneakers, a fat and bald husband fills to stretch his marble bordered Florida Beefy-T.  In my periphery are four buckets of Philly Cream Cheese, four sausages swimming in the mix of syrup and a pastry basking beside more French toast.  The husband crumb-lipped, puffs, “I need some water.” “They’ll come, you have to ask,” the wife says, sucks a pineapple cube and tells her man, “This is good.” “It looks sweet,” he returns.  For me, poetry is in these found places of being, discovered by taking notes, sometimes of the everyday drama in how a people consume, taking in what they want in some morning, while I do, too, in the clink of talk, fork and plate.  I keep thinking of fire, the image of hands rubbing together, the sound of finger print skin on palms, the feel of fat, blood, and bone within.  I find myself in the center of looking into shapes that surround me.  I attempt to make patterns, layering one into the next, often with such questions: How to participate, to point, to pull back, to listen?  Where do I fit in between these tables: eater, poet, judge, hungry person, floater?  I want to tell the son, Yes!  I return to the buffet – even after my omelet, two pieces of French toast, two strips of bacon, a bowl of fruit, a Refresh tea – to get more.  My last plate is nothing but a few water dew melon chunks, two spoons of corned beef hash & a mini-muffin.  As the couple is about to leave, I pull my laptop close into my body.  The wife struggles to get up – the husband, standing, holds her hands and pulls, wedging her out.  Walking, her body is bent to the left, partly collapsed, turning, exiting in the same direction.

 

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