haint love

Reginald Dwayne Betts

let me tell you bout the night i died

for Charles







the block.


            to the                           sound


of Junk Yard Band's                “go




            my blood,       


sangria                         poured


                                    on dry pavement.


you closed


            your eyes






on my funeral


            never visited                            my






and weed        


smoke              rose                             


                        in mourning






My woman lays

in the bed

I've splintered,

on the mattress

I've taken

            a hatchet to, opened

up the inside

until maggots

bled out

            my hollowed eyes;

she shivers

            because what

I say sounds too

            close to the thud

of my Timbs

            walking away,

with only a lit

            Newport and fingers

warm from her flesh –


and if our child

            hears this

in the womb,

            he would still

only get

            half this suicide

song, he wouldn't

            see me on my knees,

in the shadows

            of a dark bathroom,


my neck and back

            so straight

they become

            the tombstone

I want to pray

            myself from up under.

Soldier's Song

His brim tilts, a razor blade

poised to cut his face in half.

He's crumbled on the stoop

like a crushed pack of Newports,

an oak cane leans into the crook

of his right knee – shrapnel breaks

you down, he tells me. Seventeen years

in the service only to hit Iraq

like a stilled sledgehammer

and have steel scraps

turn my knee to a crimson mush.

Six empty corona bottles are lined

before his feet like dead soldiers

and all I can think to do is sit and riff

bout what Bush did to his knee,

but he pauses, stares toward the North Star

and tells me, I had a woman once.

My lady is in my car waiting,

and the engine's hum says she feels ignored.

He says, I had a woman once

and left her to play god in some

foreign land. He tells me he never

wanted to make officer,

instead needing the blood to dance

like lies before his hands.