for Michael Donald and his family
Released and returned, the hostages invaded
each and every news segment. The new president,
a former actor (Damon told her. Denise had never
heard of The Killers or Law and Order.) spoke
with a sparkle that mirrored the glinting glow
ricocheting off Damon’s juicy, soaking wet Jheri curl.
Denise’s matched his, his and her Jheri curls.
Tonight would be theirs, no
dance hall, no women surrounding the turntables,
no waiting for him to finish working
the room, no prying eyes calling to question
all of her fashion choices. Tonight would be a fancy
dinner, somewhere black folks don’t normally go,
somewhere she ain’t been before. She outlines
her lips, fills them, smacks them–she’s almost
tempted to kiss the glass, almost tempted to love herself.
Giving her hair one more pat, she’s ready, strolls out
in her ankle-hose, looking for her flats. In front
of the TV, she can only see his back: it’s slightly atremble.
When she gets close enough, she can see the tears.
What’s wrong, she asks? They just left him swinging there,
he says. Who, who, who, who, she asks, thinking
it was his brother, his uncle, one of his hardheaded
cousins. Then, the anchor said his name plain
and a matter-of-fact-like just as he would warn
of rain or an overcast day, Michael Donald,
son of Beulah Mae and David Donald, lynched.
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.