AMERICAN SONNET FOR FIRE & LIGHTNING

by Terrance Hayes

By age two, gentleman toddler Mandela was known

From mountain to valley for his stellar story-telling skills.

They sat him directly on podiums or on church pulpits

Or let him let him stand on wobbly tables in markets

And schoolhouses, falling a few times, without injury. 

Often he told variations of a tale where blind men

Discuss the varieties of light. Sometimes, because he was

Still nearly a baby, he spit up a substance the blue

In certain shades of honey. In fact, years later,

If he coughed while telling prisoners & prison guards

Bedtime tales, they say his jaws flashed a color somewhere

Between fire & lightning. He’d excuse himself, even at two,

I’m telling you, then resume his supernatural storytelling.

Folks far & wide would go home laughing & crying.

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