makalani bandele

after ect

august came in with the living room a killing floor.
the first day i painted the baby grand blue,
air soughed all around, an unrubbing

rubbed us all wrong. a warbler in the poplar
woodshedding second branch from the
top, a flutter about debussy. leaves didn’t catch

the light right, they didn’t twist easily in the breeze.
a courtship loud and wild in the treetops.
forecasted bach inventions dead in the center

of a ring of dope fiends. i come here every day in notes
to self-adhesive. i looked out when they closed down
the ferry to the land of intervals, there was no glow

about her through her lithe insignia. hard to anticipate her
timing in time.  she arouses in me: bouquet
of dead butterflies. at a place in my parabola, where every

instrument had its own room. my breathing played
with me. their charge and denials of discharge
chased all the clouds away that hide me from fulcrums.  
the fewer voices in the voicings, simpler.


étude op. 8, no. 2

(eight piano voicings of brutality)

skunky reefer with aspirin and whiskey chaser 
all the way home to keep bearings from winding out.

little sips of johnnie walker red on down the nice cop’s beat giggling. 

the night is philly and full of pigs’ whispers, razor promises—no good nigger.

remember april 

bloodied and splayed across whole tone scales?
civil defense sirens blaring between your shoulders, batons
 test the mettle of your skull. 

                                                          bits of face spilling onto some ground. 
this dissonant vengeance of disfigured 
back slaps, bootkicks to the ribcage, spleen, and pancreas, 

and you piss yourself. 

split-lipped, busted-eyed run 

of as much blunt force head trauma
the laws can get away with.


étude op. 11, no. 11

(last piano voicings of a monarch)

hard to keep him on the bench,
how loose are the bolts in the floor? nerves

raw as licks are rapacious, and lonely
hours between possessing all ears.

matter of fringe’s hortative verve, tempo:
chimeric. incite keys to riot out. but if he won’t come

down, don’t call the fire people who will send
the police, because they barely come to his block

even when it’s on fire. has a look in his pocket
that was through you and everything around

you, but what was actually seen was
for what it was somewhere else. heard that way,

too. a single note’s muffled thump like lone gunshot
reporting in the backwoods at night.

seminar in still after echo. incognito
between sets, vinegar-bitten air was a walk

through a wall, a heavy dose, but also spoon-
cooking, blood drawn into barrel,

the plunge that loosens all holds, all cozy, friends don’t let
friends, friends that are users and not friends.

nobody knows about the raucous all taut
and entertained, ears color struck, these black tar apparitions,

fields of mauve and fluted caps, fields of nothingness,
withdrawn, withdrawal, and further withdrawal

from the grasp most people need to hold to.
how funky are his fits of lucidity? when

little sequences of consequences conference
there is subtle curling of the right hand slightly

as awareness come back more aware
of itself gliding along a light interrogative.

not unlike a monarch that knows to float
somewhere it’s never been,

arrive eager, predisposed, only then knowing
this was the destination all along.


étude op. 15, no. 03

(four for therapy)


makalani bandele is an Affrilachian Poets and Cave Canem fellow. He has also received fellowships from the Kentucky Arts Council, Millay Colony, and Vermont Studio Center. He attends the University of Kentucky in pursuit of an MFA in Creative Writing. His work has been published in several anthologies and widely in print and online journals. Most recently work from an unpublished manuscript, under the aegis of a winged mind, appears or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Foundry, 32poems, and North American Review. hellfightin’ is his only full-length collection of poems. Find him on Instagram: @makbandele.