All Damon ever wanted was a gold watch
to match the gold chain he found hanging
from the gaunt arm of a Mulberry tree
by the White river as if it was left there
just for him, as if it was a gift or omen
from the Lord, something to tell him
what was in store for him beyond the forest
floor he kept his eyes on as he walked
the uneven path back to Rable Ave.
All he ever wanted was not to be
so fat, for the girls to talk to him
even when they didn’t need help
with their math, for the skinny boys not to pull
down his pants and sprint away as they laughed.
An ace pilot like those brothers from Tuskegee,
that’s what he wanted to be, a chest full of medals
and the respect of all of Anderson.
All he ever wanted to be
was a name that never slipped a tongue,
one that was never forgotten and repeated
again and again like the best part of a song, the refrain.
Douglas Manuel was born in Anderson, Indiana. He received a BA in Creative Writing from Arizona State University and an MFA from Butler University. He is currently a Middleton and Dornsife Fellow at the University of Southern California where he is pursuing a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing. His poems are featured on Poetry Foundation’s website and have appeared or are forthcoming in Zyzzyva, Pleiades, Poetry Northwest, The Los Angeles Review, Superstition Review, Rhino, North American Review, The Chattahoochee Review, New Orleans Review, Crab Creek Review, and elsewhere. His first full length collection of poems, Testify (Red Hen Press, 2017), won an IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award for poetry. In 2018, he traveled to Egypt and Eritrea with The University of Iowa’s International Writing Program to teach poetry. In 2020, he received the Dana Gioia Poetry Award and a fellowship from the Borchard Foundation Center on Literary Arts to travel to San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico to write.