Frank X Walker is a Lannan Poetry Fellowship winner and a graduate of the University of Kentucky, and Spalding University. He is a founding member of the Affrilachian Poets, the editor of two anthologies; the author of four poetry collections: When Winter Come: the Ascension of York; Buffalo Dance: The Journey of York; Affrilachia and Black Box. He currently serves as the Writer-in-Residence at Northern Kentucky University and editor of PLUCK! The Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture.
When Brother comes down from a high,
he moves like a ghost trapped on the ground.
His thin frame weathered from the effects
of bad habits, eyes nervous and searching.
When I catch him standing on the edge
of the porch, coffee cup cradled in his hand
like a loaded gun, cigarette parked in his lips,
I wonder if he is hunting for his former self
the one who jumped out of the back of planes
instead of arms.
Watching him crown himself with smoke
I remember how quickly he turned to roofing
after his tour, how searching for that high
became the only familiar thing he knew.
Life must have looked simpler that far
off the ground.
When I look at him standing on the edge
of the porch, I wonder if he is looking down
at small towns and cities or choices
-some of them still smoking
or simply regretting
that the roof was never quite high enough.
Don’t Call Me Ishmael.
Hard time didn’t make Brother wiser
like it did Etheridge Knight.
He returned home from prison
with a pocket full of excuses not poems.
You’d thought he’d read Moby Dick
while on lock down, the way he chased
his great whites
each encounter separating him
like Ahab from his leg
--first from his own children
and eventually from himself.
Regret is for families forgiving enough
to break their own promises
not realizing that even if the harpoon
is made of love, it can still drag
the whole boat down with the whale.
We might have understood revenge
and even obsession, but addiction
is more unforgiving than the sea.