On Thursday, February 2, at 7 pm in Gregg Theater, CMU professor and award-winning poet Terrance Hayes will read poems from his old and new published collections as part of the Sewickley Series. He will also present to Sewickley Academy Middle and Senior School students in an assembly during the day and conduct a poetry workshop with Academy and Summerbridge Pittsburgh students in the evening before his open-to-the-public reading.
Below is an excerpt from his collection titled ‘Lighthead,’ which won the 2010 National Book Award.
After I have parked below the spray paint caked in the granite
grooves of the Frederick Douglass Middle School sign,
where men-size children loiter like shadows draped in outsize
denim, jerseys, braids, and boots that mean I am no longer young;
after I have made my way to the New Orleans Parish Jail down the block,
where the black prison guard wearing the same weariness
my prison guard father wears buzzes me in, I follow his pistol and shield
along each corridor trying not to look at the black men
boxed and bunked around me until I reach the tiny classroom
where two dozen black boys are dressed in jumpsuits orange as the carp
I saw in a pond once in Japan, so many fat, snaggletoothed fish
ganged in and lurching for food that a lightweight tourist could have crossed
the water on their backs so long as he had tiny rice balls or bread
to drop into the mouths below his footsteps, which I’m thinking
is how Jesus must have walked on the lake that day, the crackers and crumbs
falling from the folds of his robe, and how maybe it was the one fish
so hungry it leaped up his sleeve that he later miraculously changed
into a narrow loaf of bread, something that could stick to a believer’s ribs,
and don’t get me wrong, I’m a believer too, in the power of food at least,
having seen a footbridge of carp packed gill to gill, packed tighter
than a room of boy prisoners waiting to talk poetry with a young black poet,
packed so close they’d have eaten each other had there been nothing else to eat.