Volume 27, Number 2

This Is Not a New Thing

for Michael Stewart

Hot breath of the New York subway chugging
into first avenue & 14th street where the Pratt

student tagged a subway wall & was beaten
to death. This is not a new thing, brutality.

Basquiat sat in a studio with his head in his hand
after tagging a canvas with Mean Joe Lewis

as machines made a mockery of ancient rhythms
& the Stewarts wept by a bedside.

This is not a new thing. Bruised bodies. Bleeding.
How can I talk about the way a fan brush spreads

over texture to highlight history or the dark red
under my fingernail after peeling back the label

on an oil stick, held in a fist, to pen a reckoning:
six big cops vs. 140 pounds, armed with a marker.

—Jim Davis