the louderARTS Project

Dwayne Betts

Reginald Dwayne Betts writes poems about worlds both big and small. A Cave Canem fellow, his work has been featured in a number of national magazines. He is a Breadloaf Writer’s Conference scholarship recipient and a finalist for the 2007 Ruth Lily fellowship. At present, Betts is at work on his debut book of poems, entitled “Shahid Reads His Own Palm.”

 

Near Nightfall

Before you leave the house, you’ve smoked four cigarettes
and as you drive,
smoke drifts into your eyes.
The houselights were already on and his bedroom door open

just enough for a sliver of light to cross your path.
When
your foot pushed the door open, His absence was a question
like the Newports left unopened in your purse for years. For a moment

you almost expected to find him
and voices barely above a whisper, but he was gone and the television hums
at surprise; it
made

the cracked door an invite that lied.
You saw yesterday’s clothes on his floor, books, video games and sneakers claiming
space
on the bed, under the bed. He was not on the bed,

phone to his ear as usual – The door is still open,
its Sunday and there’s
no reason for his absence. Against the shadows that fall on the wall
are hints of your laughter when

his first word was “no.”
It’s a picture of a little boy, the Orioles cap on his head big enough
for his father,
and his face filled with the red tracings of koolaid.

The picture is at least two years
after his first steps and the first time
you cried because he thought he should put legos up his nose
because

he didn’t have pockets– he needs to know
you expected him home and why around your visions you fear the tracings of white
chalk.
The phone ringing stopped everything and the cold voice

on the end
put a pause to even that,
only said your son has been at the precinct since last night.



© Dwayne Betts



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