Poem: Len Bias, a Bouquet of Flowers, and Ms. Brooks

Len Bias dropped buckets in Frederick Douglass’s dwelling state, the place I used to be raised. And it’s startling to seek out that one night time, as a substitute of softly placing that orange globe within the bucket, he was handing flowers to Ms. Gwendolyn Brooks, who was doing a studying on the University of Maryland. Bias stopped by for a second with flowers — Collier reminds us of all of it, with this Golden Shovel, borrowing his finish phrases from “she kisses her killed boy,” a line in Brooks’s “The Last Quatrain of a Ballad for Emmett Till,” reminding us that whereas “it is difficult to get the news from poems …” Selected by Reginald Dwayne Betts

Credit…Illustration by R. O. Blechman

Len Bias, a Bouquet of Flowers, and Ms. Brooks

By Michael Collier

He arrives within the center of her studying. She
has to cease and, taking the flowers he’s introduced, kisses
the attractive younger man whose yellow socks are her
dowdy sweater’s antithesis. What’s stated between them is killed
by applause, however not his smile, which is the smile of a boy
standing within the silence he’s created, and
not her magnified stare, which says she
understands why he’s arrived late, is
already leaving, and that he’s sorry.

Reginald Dwayne Betts is a poet and lawyer. He created the Million Book Project, an initiative to curate microlibraries and set up them in prisons throughout the nation. His newest assortment of poetry, ‘‘Felon,’’ explores the post-incarceration expertise. In 2019, he received a National Magazine Award in Essays and Criticism for his article in The Times Magazine about his journey from teenage carjacker to aspiring lawyer. Michael Collier’s newest assortment of poetry is the forthcoming ‘‘The Missing Mountain’’ (University of Chicago Press, 2021).