National Poetry Month Day 3: “Cousins” by Jonterri Gadson


Welcome to The Rumpus’s National Poetry Month project. We’ll be running a new poem from a different poet each day for the month of April.


On the rock slide behind Building 10,
we crushed pebbles into powder,
and plotted replacing what his mother smoked

with the products of our pounding.
Peanut butter breath and rubble dust hung
in the sliver of summer air between us.

His mini-fists gripped the sharp edges of the broken
stone mallet he drove into his growing mound
of grit that would always be

bigger than mine under the ferocious bang of a boy
whose whole body rocked to his determination
to smash the world as he knew it to pieces.

When the first big rock split open,
I looked at him and didn’t breathe;
he looked at me, didn’t breathe;

we looked at the center of a rock
for the first time, together,
expecting magic.

Some days I’ll remember that day
as the day we realized, forever,
that a rock is just a rock

through to its core. But when alcoholism
comes to him as naturally as his dimples,
this day will be an exhale; the final finger flex

of a throbbing fist; it will be blood
seeping from cut hands—all of the blood—
drops that dripped free and those that pooled

in his dirty palm to dry up together,
to waste, in the cracks in his lifeline.

Jonterri Gadson

Original poetry published by The Rumpus. More from this author →