Tears of The Velveteen Rabbit

I don’t mean to say everything is all serious
all the time, or anything
but never having no power
and always in bed because
my bones are sweet and flake
like communion wafers
and the radiant pain of whales
harpooned in their bed
hanging on to the calm of coral
high pitched cries that escape
my fingers, so willful they barely
need me, it never stops.
and always at someone else’s
mercy, and mercy if I’m lucky,
pities or whims of folks who
would take away the paragraphs
of my pillows and linens
leaving me without a story
and pluck out my eyes like
crows in fairy tales, or set
my eyes on fire and descend
deep sea divers into the lavender
scent of the flames. I’d like to be light.
I’d like to be someone’s sharp
sunshine or funny bone, or
happy go lucky child that took
no more time or attention
than the unspoken word
once it gets uttered. To stretch
out, extend my front and hind
legs in green grass without
a thousand needles entering
the pores of my skin, without
the earth itself opening its
hungry mouth and feeding
on my breath.



i am becoming
everything appetite is

to hunger.
it feels like the truth,

the melody
of it, the quiver.

even the stronger
effort for breath.

pudding and cakes
and french fries

all day long
and counting mama’s

like rich people

counting money.

the bigger I get,
the better I levitate.

the easier I float

across bridges.

the roundness
of my aunt’s

fleshy arms
that kept the rhythms

like clocks
that harbored the wounded

and sometimes
healed the sick

are my compasses,
my map.

hunger is the black out
of bodies dangling

from oaks,
the “received” document

with almost no
readable print.

taste is the shameful
relief that I was

not one of the them.


prison chapters

inmates couldn’t read me
but I was always there
usually in solitary

i was a crazy book
they said a banned book
too dangerous a book

the cover had been ripped
off long ago, along
with the front matter

and so i had no title
no place of origin
no shared category.

one man ran the library
one man got first pick
of all the books

he read me whenever
i was loosed
on the general population

he read me well enough
to know every word
by heart, every inch

of dialogue every broken
whisper. sometimes
in anger, he tore pages

sometimes he broke my spine
sometimes he swallowed
coniferous paper pulp

interwoven with sea
seashell bits, dried
roses, hemp fibers

cotton rag tatters
sweetgrass or palmetto
balled into a fist.

sometimes in the shower
the story unfolded all
at once, in muted sounds

and drops of blood
in a borealis of swirling
water, or in the cell

on lockdown, the lights
cut like a rival’s skin
he realized he couldn’t win.

the wafer of flame pistil
he took inside the filthiest
city he could imagine

remained alive. he
could never unread or be
un-changed by my story.



Today, when the air is sticky lead
I slow flow with the thousands.

We are like herds of lemmings, people.

We are like nanomites moving through
a monk’s bloodstream, searching
for the creator.

We have no clue to what They look like.

We may not even have
the right vision to see Them.

Through a snake’s eyes, our clarity
is abstract art, if art
is the precondition
for living.

To a cuttlefish, our black is thermal
amethyst verdant.

To a fly, we are barely a blur
and to a mosquito, but for our heat
we do not exist.

I keep thinking I see Them, but who knows.
Is that Them on the corner
wearing a bright red scarf
and broken bones?

Is that Them, on the pink
fairy bike stalked by whoops
and fists with the innocent bell
that tinkles?

Is that Them, torso bared
hammering away
on the hot tarred roof
sweat and tears dripping on hot shingles?

Is that Them, inland from the bay
on eyelids of wind
wings splayed shaving time
soft white bodies bringing
glared breath?

I keep thinking, suppose.

Suppose this is the terror
I hold back
in the twitching of a cigarette

in the dissipating dream that someday
I will make peace
with my mind and my body.

In the cavity of every eye
of every trick
circling the block,
of every ghost
inside the machine
when I cry mama, mama, is that you.

They’re just like us
and helplessly trapped in loops
like the fools in cars who think

the next time ‘ll be the perfect one
and after that, redemption, and at last
an end to hunger.

there’s no going home again
to go to.

this is all the art there is to living.


Prahlad is the author of two books of poems, Hear My Story and Other Poems, and As Good As Mango; and a memoir, The Secret Life of A Black Aspie. He is a professor at the University of Missouri, where he teaches creative writing, folklore, disability studies and film.

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