Paul David Atkins


My Mother's Explanation of the Contents of the Canals Bordering State Road 84 West of Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 1968


While Baltimore was burning, and Detroit remained 

a charred stump from last summer,
I asked my mother,

             What's in those canals, because

I didn't know -

I figured largemouth bass, a gator
or two,
a swamped john boat.

I figured there was more
than I could see

but didn't know
she was going to
tell me

             Bodies, Paul.

             Bodies,

weighted in their sunken Ramblers and Edsels,
which passing cops had missed by minutes
though the last breaths of crumpled lungs
wriggled free and, shimmering,
rose to crest in moonlight,
half-globes of spent air.
And no one knew

but her
and me, now.

No one goes diving in those brackish waters
looking for secrets,
looking to disturb
the languid gars
nosing the fanbelts for perch,

the monstrous catfish
slipping so quickly

amid the upended chassis.


Detroit Rebellion, July, 1967: Marvin Gaye's Recollection of the 12th Street Blind Pig Party in 1971


             Hey, what's happening?

             Brother, what's up?

Then he's reasoning with his mother,
pleading with his father,
who later killed him with the .38
he gave him as a Christmas gift.

He's reaching out to cops,
begging for the war
to end.

             Who are they
,
he asks.

In fifteen years, he'll be cocaine blind,
slipping his shoes on the wrong feet,
squeezing into three overcoats to winter
Los Angeles Decembers.

He'll be fucked up,

but what can we do?

Can we fly ourselves back to the day
he died?
As we heave the gurney up the stairs,
can we ask,

             Hey, man, what's your name?

Can we tell him what he meant?

Can we soar ourselves
to the hour he sang that song?

             Everything is everything,
he'd say.

He'd say.

We'd say,

             We'd drop everything.

"Signs in a Car Graveyard", Troy Hudson 


Paul David Adkins lives in New York. In 2017, Lit Riot published his collection Flying Over Baghdad with Sylvia Plath. Journal publications include Pleiades, River Styx, Rattle, Diode, Baltimore Review, Crab Creek, and Whiskey Island. He has received five Pushcart nominations and two finalist nominations from the Central NY Book Awards.