Author Archives | Dionne Custer Edwards

…featuring Dionne Custer Edwards at The Greenwich


Thanks to Pharez Whitted (trumpet), Eddie Bayard (sax), Jeremiah Hunt (bass), Xazavian Valladay (percussion), and Andrew Toombs (keys)


And when he lost his smile
I fumbled through the baby
pictures looking for evidence
of sunlight, of darts of yellow
spray flooded behind him,
the spread of his lips
the balled up skin
on cheeks, the way joy
seemed so natural then.
I flipped through birthdays,
play, pose after pose,
the way his smile
seemed to disappear,
vanish in his stiff cheeks
in his blank stare
as if the days spun silence,
whittled glow,
as if he lost his ability to know
what to do with joy,
that sparkling prism.
I wonder if he knows
its stuck inside of him
light pushing at the seams.

The Trouble with Silk

I listened careful, surprised
by soft-spoken reference,
bit of thin mist in the air.
I had suspected
but watched the corner
of your eyes tighten
as we discussed the body
the bloody thumbprint of history;
the burden you carry
in your spine, close to your hip.
It is inconvenient to wear
these layers, this stacked lie
on your sleeve.
But where else do you put it?
It is too dangerous.
Similar to the way
it is dangerous
for me to be here
in the first place.
I wonder but never ask.
You can pass, I realize.
You can whisper to me
in the crevice of our day,
walk out of harmony song
wear the gradual undoing
of your body, your treble
tongue, your tremble,
hidden under your armpit
like salt stain,
like small puddle
like pause to rest
at the end of the measure.
I will never tell.
It is not my story.
I hope the sweat
never ruins your blouse.



Eve and Plenty

The end of day finds us beaten
and collected, dusk full of hazy
beryl silver mauve. We make
little room for agony,
stretch of deep white light,
thick draft between the clouds.
We attempt to press lips
into words, loosen our strikes
dig out of clutch and trouble,
curl ourselves into ourselves,
waist to rib to slight shift in breath.
We lie in a tempered stride,
do as we always do in times
of struggle, wait for the moon.


You gathered all matter
of dangerous, made it shiny
and irresistible, pressed it
on your wrists like myrrh,
a spell of ache and delight.
I let every bead of it
fill in my pores, dam the spaces
where sweat might gather,
flood the wounds with sting.

Blue in Green

he listens to jazz in his room
horn and slippery bass line
rolling thumb on thigh
going on some number of years
well beyond his age   hair
on upper lip and other fresh places
buds on fragile branches
lights and shadows
in color in long limbs ankle bare
welts of ash on skin on bone
the years as ribbon
all of that reach for when I’m older
on his sleeve  all that angst
rhythm and gold
he reminds me of a firefly
bright shutter and bloom




mind the seed of us
some mix and pitch
some heal and splinter
some lemon colored sky
before the days flood
we roots of stumble
lengthen and bloom

Paper Cut

We bring heat, beat arrows
and thorns, raise our points,
bright darts, and run-on sentences.
We need practice in delay,
suffer the knot in our tongues
as if we could stuff scale
and ink in throat, fill the well
with sparkle and weight,
things we want to say
but gather in our heads
for later. Let’s call it listening,
not focused on buckle in jaw,
split skin seams, the color of horizon.
It’s hard for us to keep bleed,
rust and feud quiet and tidy.
The sound carries, mouth
full of dry jest and jewels.
We point out the particulars,
deep folds and messy pleats;
trouble the harmony and slow,
the length of dark and lightening,
the words, reckless jut and splay.


If I sit here longer
I risk some kind
of vulnerable    petals
might crumble  fall
from my cheeks
I tend to throw rocks
fumble for sharps
and corner stones
I do not know
the way to smooth
to wide pepper mist
to safe and pleasant
thing between us
I know how to run
gather my pieces
of broken glass  hear
them scratch scrape
chalk lines on skin
bloom dirty shine
and static in my pocket

Standing Smoke

meanwhile shreds of bodies
walk thin of thirst of time
down streets of Caracas
a clash of cryptic and crowd
march   throw voices
blood frayed edge
at tall walls  at thick heat
at rules and suffering

pale and fury swing
its cotton color and tail
full on concrete and orchids
choke rippling dry throats
will and limbs travel
in layers of tear gas
wave flag hand or fist
out of stand out of smoke

Blues #19

We muster up truce,
tune full of bow,
ease and fret, stuff
our swords and rebut
in some strange place
behind soft eye squint
between breath,
ruin this sliver of
pale ruby glint
with a tender pace,
some oily spots
of heap and sunlight,
under thread of cobweb
dangling from the ceiling.

Blues #18

a thin knot
a single
smudged print
on clear glass
holds the day


on the good days
you barely notice
her clearing her throat
fluid   breath   shuffling
the sides of damp dark walls
a clutter of wind shred
thick daunting draft
a helpless open
scent stream
on clothes and skin
close to nose   to neck
to throat
harbor sweat on limbs
lay sound and scuff
inside breath and syllables
cheeks full of slow gray air


We stand
as dandelions
foolish marigold spray
of sparse petal
ashen tear

Splendid Tide

The clock stamps
a wild silence, scraps
of beat and black,
days thick and unsure.
We rely on storm,
charcoal cracks in sky.
Mark time, ourselves,
in centers ticks and lines,
a mess of measures,
a stone steady tide.

Blues #14

inside hard rain
and wounds
we note    plan
sing          chant
ask ourselves
to dance
in this ever-storm
and absence
of lavender and hail
the voices screens
so many people
and things mouth
words         sounds


time        a stitch
of color  loosening
I remember tender thumb
suckling sore flesh
and skinned knee
a sprig of memory
fastens us
as magnet or twine
these few days
stretch bones
deepen voices
turn them into
sparkles of change
into widening stride


her thin body wrapped
in a spoonful of fuss and sweat
her light   flash and spare
his long slender   folded   tied
running  standing  breathing
target      wrangled
like a bundle of waste
as breath and neck stretch
utter what little sound
one can make while head down
hands behind back
boot to face like spit
split chapped lip
like plum flesh
ball up bark and limbs
shackle any bit of bright day
and dignity      thread it
through blade and soil
press stress and slander
fist full of dirty glass
traces of bottom and tread
on cheeks on hands on skin
wild fish fighting for life
a rag doll among the shatter
not an ounce of spare

Blues #11

We try not to stretch
the day with trouble

Sweeten tart pulp
on our tongues

Borrow from wit
we keep in our pockets

Forget what bitter things
cling to spine

Blood and Treasure

Rhetoric unravels
in at least five
different languages
What happens when fear
a rumbling gut of salt
and might
cross bodies of water
cross tongues
appear noble before sword
scribble all kinds
of blood and chatter
all kinds of matter
and gutter punch
What will we do
with more rubble and flame
more blow and ghosts


Inside wide eye and pupil
dark and milk white
a cylinder universe
a noisy cluttering of color
strangers and friends
nod their heads
slight and forward
look to press their stare
into that pupil     that light
a sheer window  a spot
in the world   wondering open

Stalled and Port

tremor flares up
like rocket burst
fifty-nine strikes
color in    ruin
cover horizon

meld sky and water
lose them both
to sour and spark
to metal Ross and Porter
to fickle and brawn


after brutal brush
of marble and sand
lengthening strife
hollow out
rock and neighbor
buzz to brittle purr
years to whittle down
city and bone
the days collapse
into uproar and discord
the world watches and waits
holds its differing tongue
to trail of crooked echo
stew of limbs and howl
and then     fire
rapid flash and spray
as dark often keeps such terror
there   up in smoke
a loud draw
a coral dust
long and full sorrow

When Clouds Scream

how does rain happen
he asks

the storm equally fascinates and scares

we do not know the power of rain   he
imagines mayhem
then magic
then music
thunder low notes
bright spike lightening vibrates glass

he suspects a tornado
like all storms with thump and wind
imagines flood and terrible things
freaks himself out
worries with many questions
with many of his own fantastic answers

settles back down

wonders about the rain
about how it might move us
wash us away

wicked gale

what we   they  do not see
fire and noose
tender body   bended waist
knees small and round
dug into cloud and ground
into open palms
into open air
sky full of wicked
mangle limb and lung
gather wails of grief
ghosts and wounds

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