becoming beautiful by Curtis Crisler

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy

— for the jenbe player


but this is how it sounds in
              his head/ the reaching in the dung
for a kiss of stardust/

to bend into his self/
              let the hands of the ancestors thump
their aura of rise & fall

until his logicalness dies to logic/
              the goatskin/ the wood body, a carved calabash,
so the sweetness of cooled

fruit resonates from a Malinké
              soul/ even in Fort Wayne/ in TRIAAC loft/
he sees a Mali face on everyone else’s

face/ their heart didn’t stop/ the jenbe
              screams “anke djé, anke bé”/ so everyone
gathers together in peace/

in this moment of all moments there is a
              nucleus for new moment/ here, he sees
knees, thighs, & shins are scaffolds for body

of a West African caste/ reaching into
              murk, into tempest of light, where practice
can't hold up since in-the-moment

got her foot on practice's neck/ the slap on
              the skin recalls how his color of
the past is the crayon of his now/

the moment the first two lips met/
              the second God put papers on the drummerman,
leaving hot sting in his fingers,

transforming the moan from jenbe body
              to the moaning of his body/ how
electricity feels, cuts him raw, a cold prison shank/

how the warmth pouring out of him gathers
              round us/ how what throbbed from him reaches
our feet, travels up, lights a dim country in our eyes 


Curtis L. Crisler was born and raised in Gary, Indiana. His books are Pulling Scabs, Tough Boy Sonatas, Dreamist: a mixed-genre novel, and his chapbook Soundtrack to Latchkey Boy, by Finishing Line Press, was recently released. He’s been published in many magazines, journals, and anthologies. He is Assistant Professor of English at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW), a Cave Canem Fellow, and a Contributing Editor to Aquarius Press.