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Best Famous Chris Tusa Poems

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by Chris Tusa |

Snow White to the Prince

 after Susan Thomas

Truth is, my life was no fairytale, 
that afternoon, I lay, a smiling corpse
under a glass sky, a rotten apple
lodged in my throat like a black lump
of cancer, your sloppy kiss dying on my lips.

Did you really believe a kiss could cure
the poison galloping through my veins, 
as you stood there, with your ugly white horse, 
the voices of dwarfs buzzing like flies
in the apple-scented air? 

I wish you could see me now, 
how I take to the sky, a witch 
without a broom, an empty black silhouette
with stars for teeth, spooking deer
into briar patches, swallowing the shadows of trees. 

I wish I could slip into my beautiful white flesh, 
just once, my pretty white feet stuffed into black slippers, 
my poisoned-breath fogging up the smiling mirror. 
If only you could see the light pouring from my skin.
If only you could hear the songs my bones sing.

by Chris Tusa |


 She looks rather pathetic, really,
leaning against the black air,
the three mangled fingers of her left hand
clutching a yellow purse,
her right arm raised over her head
as if to shield herself
from the silver shower of stars
raining down upon her.

Her mouth is a crack
growing beneath her nose.
Two dimples open like holes
in her cheeks. A pink ear
dangles from her chin.

Looking at it now, it's clear.
But who could have possibly know then
the dark shades of meaning
lurking in the shadow of her face,
the quiet relevance of the pearl necklace
swimming around her neck,
the orange birds drifting above her
like question marks?

Or that twenty years later
it would all make sense-
the way her eyes roll toward the sky,
the way my father stands behind her
in the crowd, arms waving
in the wind, as if he's slowly drowning 
in the black sea of faces.

by Chris Tusa |


 My grandmother’s teeth stare at her
from a mason jar on the nightstand.

The radio turns itself on, 
sunlight crawls through the window,

and she thinks she feels her bright blue eyes 
rolling out her head.

She’s certain her blood has turned to dirt,
that beetles haunt the dark hollow of her bones.

The clock on the kitchen wall is missing its big hand. 
The potatoes in the sink are growing eyes.

She stares at my grandfather standing in the doorway,
his smile flickering like the side of an axe.

Outside, in the yard, a chicken hops 
through the tall grass, looking for its head.

by Chris Tusa |


 Marie Laveau, a colored woman who eventually became
known as the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, often used
her knowledge of Voodoo to manipulate and acquire power.

In one quick lick I waved my mojo hand,
made the Mississippi’s muddy spine 
run crooked as a crow’s foot, 
scared politicians into my pocket
with lizard tongues and buzzard bones,
convinced the governor to sing my name 
under a sharp crescent moon 
white as a gator’s tooth.

Now my magic got the whole Vieux Carré 
waltzing with redfish and rooster heads, 
got Protestants blessing okra and cayenne, 
Catholics chasing black cats down Dumaine, 
even got Creoles two-stepping with pythons 
along the banks of Bayou St. John.

They say soon my powers gonna fade,
that there’s a noose aloose in the streets
looking for a neck to blame. 
But I’m just a lowly colored woman 
and ain’t nobody gonna blame a worm
for scaring a catfish onto a hook.

by Chris Tusa |


 Maybe it’s Emphysema, a shiny black jewel of phlegm 
humming like a clump of bees in my chest. 
Perhaps a tumor crawling in the crook of my armpit, 
a blood clot opening like a tiny red flower in my brain.

Maybe it’s too early to show up on an X-ray, 
a kind of cancerous seed planted deep 
in my intestine, something like Leukemia’s ghost 
haunting my hollow bones.

The doctor says I’m fine. 

But even now, deep in the dark holes of my eyes
I can feel the cataracts spinning their silver webs.
Even now, in the bony cage of my lungs
I can feel the heart attack’s prologue,
the opening words of some prolific pain
like a bird stabbing its incessant beak 
into the ripe red meat of my heart.

by Chris Tusa |

Ode to Gumbo

 after Sue Owen

Born from flour anointed with oil, 
from a roux dark and mean as a horse’s breath, 
you remind me of some strange, mystical stew 
spawned from a muddy version of Macbeth.
Only someone’s replaced the spells with spices, 
the witches with a Cajun chef.

Maybe you’re a recipe torn from Satan’s Cookbook, 
a kind of dumb-downed devil’s brew
where evil stirs its wicked spoon
in a swampy sacrificial hue.
Maybe God damned the okra that thickens
your soup, the muddy bones that haunt your stew.

Maybe this is why, when we smell the cayenne, 
we’re struck dumb as a moth.
Maybe this is why everything that crawls or flies
seems to find its way into your swampy broth.