Len Lawson


Len Lawson is the author of the chapbook Before the Night Wakes You (Finishing Line Press) and editor of Hand in Hand: Poets Respond to Race (Muddy Ford Press). He is a PhD student in English Literature and Criticism at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He won the 2016 Jasper Magazine Artist of the Year Award in Literary Arts. Len is a Pushcart Prize nominee and multiple-time nominee for the Best of the Net Anthology. He has received a fellowship from Callaloo and a residency from Vermont Studio Center. His poems have appeared in [PANK] Magazine, Winter Tangerine Review, The James Franco Review, Mississippi Review, Public Pool, and elsewhere. Len is also a Poetry Reader & Book Reviewer for Up the Staircase Quarterly. He currently teaches English at the University of South Carolina Sumter Campus. His website is www.lenlawson.co.


Plan B

for Big nose
B for Broad, regal
olfactory elegance
It runs in the family
A mountain erupting
from fountains of family loins
Grandma gene-fed Daddy with it
and he spit it out onto my oily face
It covered my whole body
B for that Big Bird beak! they said I have
My feathers are a darker shade
No, no, not B for Buzzard
Call me Black Falcon
Tears slide smooth down the slope of it
Rippling in pain as the nostrils flare
I am one big snout
I root, I grunt, I snort
They said
Hey! Tell us what it smells like in China with that thing!
Maybe I can dig there with it
Pack a bag and swim through the earth
led by this golden shovel
Past the family loins from which it was spawned
B for the blood bones, the scars from whips
Past singed psyches from too many games of the dozens
Too many laughs at our own people
Too many crabs in barrels
Gawks at big noses and big lips
B for Big butts and thighs
B for Big brown eyes
B for Blistering tears running raw on jagged brown faces
Streaming from ravaged fountains
even hers
She walks out of the closed room slowly
head down
shuffling her tear-stained feet
big brown eyes low
then straight at me
B for boy
He would’ve had your nose she moans

African-Americans have been ridiculed for centuries for having unique, bold features even by members of our own community. However, it is these features that have become commodities to American culture. They will always be our calling cards. Therefore, I have learned to embrace them in us all, even those yet to be born.