Three poems by Denzel Scott • Empty Mirror

overlay / credit: deoverlay / credit: de

A Train and a Funeral

I had to hop a train
to bury my most recent dead.

His body laid
in the funeral home
at the other side
of the tracks.

I parked my car
in the liquor store
parking lot
after having raced
one hundred miles
from Orangeburg to
Charleston to see
another black boy
slain and dressed
some type of way
in a coffin, dressed
by his mama one last,
for eternal sleep.

I had arrived
just as the funeral
was hoppin’ to,

just as my sister’s
head wrap and mother’s
hijab came into sight

behind the scattered limousines
and various cars that
encircled the funeral
parlor like the outer
petals of a newly bloomed rose.

I didn’t want to be
that nigga who acted
fool, so I hesitated for
a few moments thinking
I could just wait or drive
along until I could discover
a more respectable way across,
like I had that kind of time.

But then the youth,
friends of my dead cousin,
in their late teens and
early twenties started
walking towards the train,
entirely unrestrained
by respectability politics,

and so I, newly inspired,
walked with them,
and as we approached
and saw that even climbing
a still train is cumbersome,
they devised their strategies.

But once I heard a girl
suggest climbing under
a stopped train that could
foreseeably start again at
any time, I threw my leg
on a high bar, and reached
for bars that were even higher,
and hoisted myself to every
foothold that I could see

and leaped down and crossed
a ditch like I was a kid again
doing the long jump at a
track meet to see
this young man
be put with the
rest of our chthonic kin.

Moon Shadow

Scarab black, in
a public school,
on a list,
of a list,
somewhere both
distant and near—

I was a student,
then a teacher,
then a nigga
with no job.
What did I
learn from these
changing states?

Am I still intelligent?
Can I speak at length
on the contemplation
of beauty that
Toni Morrison explores
in The Bluest Eye?
Of course, but
would anyone listen?

As a student who once
paid to be heard—
voices erupted constantly,
but not for my sake,
and most definitely
not for my instructor’s.
No one was heard
though many spoke.

As a teacher who
was paid to speak—
I yelled at my garden
of rebellious roses
and they felt the breeze
of my tired breath, but
heard none of the
wit of my words,
and they were stunted
and annoyed that
I wasted their playtime,
which was always.

And as a nigga
with no job, I
lay about like a
house cat, purring
into an empty apartment,
bemused by the
symphony of my
self-imposed solitude.

Don’t nobody
want to hear nothing
from a nigga
with no job
most of all.

are the shadows of planets
and moons—
perpetually ignorable,
except on the rarest of occasions
where darkness out dazzles light.

From Up on High

In the scale of Goliath,
I did fall, bested—
the reversal of David’s
fortune, I did
fall like unto Icarus’s
delphinium ruin, with the melted
wax and feather wings
of my precious ego.

I did fall—
from the University of Chicago
with its life of the mind
bred by intellectual dynamos
nestled in their ivory towers,
nestled so close to the bosom
of Mnemosyne
and the nine Muses,

and sequestered away from Cottage Grove
and the ‘hoods of the Southside,
like a pearl cloistered away
from the black, turbulent sea

I fell and now
I try to find my way—
efforts too that are mythic,
Herculean in their difficulty,
Sisyphean in their repetitiveness—
get money
pay bills
keep a roof
over my head.

About Denzel Scott

Denzel Xavier Scott earned his BA in English from the University of Chicago and received his Writing MFA at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in his hometown of Savannah, GA.

His works appear in Spillway, Decomp, Euphony Journal, and Blacklight Magazine of the University of Chicago, Bombay Gin literary magazine of Naropa University, the Missing Slate literary magazine, Apeiron Review, based out of Philadelphia, the Gambler Mag, based out of New Orleans, Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal, SLAB magazine of Slippery Rock University and, Linden Avenue. He has forthcoming publication in Rattle and the Louisville Review.

Denzel Scott is a past recipient of the University of Chicago’s prestigious Summer Arts Council Fellowship Grant. In September 2018, he became one of the winners of Writer Relief’s Peter K Hixson Memorial Prize.

Business Relationships Book