Poems by Clemonce Heard

I’ve been neglecting the poets lately, so here are two poems from our Spring 2018 issue by New Orleans native and current Oklahoman, Clemonce Heard. He’s a tremendous talent and it was a privilege to publish these!


Midwest Swing

Got my bison license plate
My big blue sky and my red clay
I staked my claim & lynched my shades
Cause I’m the vein of Oklahoma

Got my cleaver killed my state
I still believe in god we pray
We burn the buildings that we raid
Cause I’m the vein of Oklahoma

Got my flag for thirteen states
We’re headed where the negros stay
We’ll call our march a masquerade
Cause I’m the vein of Oklahoma

Got my crossroads & my bait
Before I slave I look both ways
I truss their limbs & make the trade
Cause I’m the vein of Oklahoma

Got my bomb to detonate
I should’ve died like James Earl Ray
Or drowned where all the Baptists wade
Cause I’m the vein of Oklahoma

Got Coronas for my fate
Drove my Corolla ’til I strayed
The coroner hummed to his sweet blade
Cause I’m the vein of Oklahoma

Cause I’m the vein of Oklahoma
Cause I’m the vein of Oklahoma


To: Aboard, From: Abroad

Baby, to be honest, I don’t know
what I’m doing. Your voice wails

like a train trying to clear a track,
& your eyes have crossed to one.

Truthfully, I found it hard to tell
what the trees & folk that settled

in the south’s blurred backwoods
were waving. If they were saying

hello or goodbye. If the pastures
where they stood were the front

yards or the back. My mama said
that if a lover hops a freight mid

summer & tries to return late fall
to kick them where their hat lays.

She said go for the nose to derail
any blood that even thinks about

going to the brain. I believe she’s
rightfully crazy. Remember when

we rode that train to Tennessee?
Our faces in the glass looked like

a photograph we should’ve took.
One, once years passed we could

look back on & laugh. Baby, take
me back. Those wheels humping

the tracks across from my shack
are nothing but chalkdust to me

now. They’ve wrecked my bound
& gagged baggage, then dragged

over it one mo ‘gin to make sure
my dignity couldn’t be salvaged.

We both know I could never tell
the difference between a horse’s

cab & its caboose. What I mean
is I loved your face just as much

as I loved your sweet ass. I know
it may sound bad but it’s the god

fearing truth. Hear me out, baby.
I don’t care ‘bout looking like no

sick puppy in front of you, cause
when I peek at the picture I keep

stashed in my nightstand, I can’t
help but want to be the scalawag

with his lips pressed against your
cheek. Holding you from behind.