You want Yusef Komunyakaa to write his poems for you. The Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Komunaka, has mastered the ability to make the mundane memorable. I remember that this cat in prison was surprised to read how he handled the title “Neon Vernacular” or “Talking Dirty to the Gods”. His latest, “Everyday Mojo Songs of Earth” gives us some classics. One like this, “Ogg to the Magot”. The power is in recognizing, always, that at least one of us is talking. “Little / master of the earth, no one goes to heaven / does not go without you first.” Selected by Reginald Dwayne Bates
Odd to the maggot
By Yusef Komunyakaa
And godhead, you work magic
On the battlefield,
In bad pork slabs
And flophouse. Yes you
Get to the root of everything.
You are sound and mathematical.
Jesus christ you are ruthless
With the truth. Ontological and luminous,
You chant beggars and kings
Behind Caesar’s Tomb Stone Door
Or divide the trench into an area of ragweed.
No decree or creed can impress you
As you separate every living thing. Little
Master of the earth no one goes to heaven
Pass without you first.
Illustration by RO Blackman
Reginald Dwayne Bates Is a poet and lawyer. He created the Million Book Project, an initiative to curate and install micro-libraries in prisons across the country. His latest collection of poems, “Falon,” explores the post-incarceration experience. In 2019, he won a National Magazine Award in Essay and Criticism for his article in The Times magazine, covering the journey from Kishore Karjkar to aspiring lawyer. Yousef Komunyaka The author recently released ‘Everyday Mojo Songs of Earth’, ‘Ferrari, Strasse and Giroux, and many other collections in June. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for “Neon Vernacular”. He teaches at New York University.