Shamar Hill

Laundry Quarters


The sight of his genitals
resist the urge to make sense.
When you wrote his obituary
& chose the photos did you think of me?
I was eight years old again.
You smacked my hand.
Caught stealing laundry quarters.
Each day my father dies
dust blows into my eyes
& cinders my throat.
Never take what isn’t yours.
Do you understand me?

You didn’t say anything about the dollars missing
from an envelope in your shoe rack.
I looked up at you,
the coin roll in my clenched fist.
How could I tell you I was living a stolen life?
I had a fever.
He pulled down my pants
like he had done during gym, in the bathroom,
when I stripped a door in the basement.
His name snake skin
sloughing my memory.
I’m still a numbness for him.
His voice molted brown deaths.
I had a fever and he smelled of dusk.
The light became barbed wire,
You said, never take what isn’t yours,
but you’re a coward, each day snuffed out.
I slammed him into the chalkboard.
I felt like God sharpening my blade
on the shadows of his skin,
on even his skin.




Shamar Hill, who is Jewish, Barbadian and Cherokee, graduated from the MFA program at New York University. He is the recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship and has been published or has work forthcoming in The Rumpus, Southern Humanities Review, Kenyon Review Online, Brooklyn Quarterly, and Tinderbox. He is working on his first poetry collection, Photographs of an Imagined Childhood, and a memoir, In Defiance of All True Things.




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