Rumpus Original Poetry: Two Poems by Alexa Patrick





The first boy to call me beautiful

had hair like a waving fist, walked
down the hallway, radius of curl 
beckoning white hands that he’d 
allow, though, I’d watch a little 
light in him dim to tar. This, 
a language us onlies have, 
where no language need exist 
at all. 
                        Head nod. 

Richie was his name, but
he came to our town escaping
a poor Harlem corner. Moved
in with a white family, started 
playing lacrosse. Think 
Fresh Prince meets
The Blind Side meets 
other stories of roots lost 
            for progress

This, while I convinced myself 
to like salad just for the Abercrombie
jeans hanging in my closet. 
Pushed straight hair over scabs 
on my scalp; the need to fit 
louder than the burn 
crawling up my neck

Most times, his friends, 
no-lip white boys, spit 
in my direction, then, messaged 
me to ask what my mouth 
might do, knowing they’d pass 
me in hallways later

Imagine my joy 
looking down to see his name 
lighting the phone, a new tone 
ringing as blood pushed 
and softened the Black 
of my cheeks

            Ur beautiful

from the only boy who might understand
what those words mean

            but don’t tell ne1 I said that, ok?



The Black Men Outside The Waterfront Safeway Serenade Me

*this poem uses lines from “Walk on By” by Dionne Warwick

Smoke pours from the well of their mouths,
waltzes to the moon and gasps.
The crowd around is the same crowd
always around; the only city 
that does not move

unless there is a song

Concrete glosses to sheet vinyl
as they hum the names of women
who broke their hearts, I, 
carry a dinner I will not share,
avoiding their sequin retinas,
bringing a phone to my ear to speak to no one.

Walk on by, walk on by, make me believe…

They must know the number of quiet Saturdays
the father I haven’t heard from—
the static on the other end

Foolish pride is all that I have left
Let me hide…

They stand, monuments to themselves,
in the middle of white marble, 
cleaned and surveilled incessantly. 
I, too, expect too many eyes, 
not enough hands (not gentle ones)

I just can’t get over losing you
And so if I seem broken…

I worry my loneliness is 
the loudest thing about me,
but I drown in the men’s spilling.
One even used his good knee
to climb the rickety bench,
arms open like sky

Miss Lady! Miss Lady! I know you hear me!





Author photo by Carletta Girma

Alexa Patrick is a singer and poet from Connecticut. She holds fellowships from Cave Canem, Obsidian, and The Watering Hole. Alexa is the Program Director at Shout Mouse Press, and has held teaching positions through Split This Rock, The University of the District of Columbia, and the Center for Creative Youth at Wesleyan University. You may find Alexa's work in publications including The Quarry, ArLiJo, CRWN Magazine, and The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 2: Black Girl Magic. Her debut collection Remedies for Disappearing will be published by Haymarket Books in 2023. More from this author →