Basquiat’s on the back steps with my niece
helping her to draw a picture of us all,
tossing back gray dreadlocks as they fall
into his eyes. My Sister argues politics
with Martin and Coretta in the back yard
over ribs – Romare Bearden’s cooking –
Malcolm puts his two cents in between
bites of peas and rice. My grandfather
flirts with Billie as they remember the old
days on The Avenue in West Baltimore. Pres
brushes off his pork pie hat and stands, offers
to get my grandmother something from
the desert table. She declines, full from her
second helping Duke Ellington’s homemade
apple pie. Essex and Joe Beam line dance with
Audre and Pat Parker while Assoto Saint,
Melvin Dixon and my partner critique
from the picnic table off to one side.
Shamefaced, my father shows up late,
as always, with Charlie Parker and Bud Powell in tow.
Where’ve you-all been? my mother asks.
She gets a kiss and sheepish grin, but no reply.
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I’m always struck by how, when friends and family get together, we are always surrounded by ghosts. The name of some relative who has passed gets called, a story is told that feels as though it has been handed down for generations, or a song gets played that brings back intense memories of first or last meetings. This is not always a sad thing and in fact these are usually joyous recollections. The calling out of names keeps both the past and our ancestors alive. I also grew up celebrating both my father’s and my great grandfather’s birthdays on July 4th. In “Reunion” the mix of family members and cultural icons, the personal and the political, the intimate and the social to forms one huge backyard celebration. Ya’ll come.
A Pushcart Prize Nominee and author of 10 Tongues: Poems REGINALD HARRIS’ work has appeared in a variety of publications including 5 AM, African-American Review, Beltway, Gargoyle, MELUS Journal, Sou'wester; and the Best Gay Poetry 2008, Bum Rush the Page, and The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South anthologies.