To The Black Man Popping A Wheelie On Interstate 59 North On 4th of July Weekend by Ashley M. Jones

America, almost independent
for its two hundred fortieth year,
is an interstate highway in Birmingham,
where I’m speeding back to my parents’ house,
where the roads are clear because
God blessed America, or maybe
it’s just because there is beer and tiny explosions
in every backyard, campy novelty tshirts for miles—
but right now,
America is you, up on your hind wheel,
you, straddling the motorcycle,
hips so open they’re almost unhinged,
it’s you, gun strapped to one leg,
keys strapped to the other,
you, with your black butt crack flying open in the wind,
legs spread eagle—legs spread black eagle,
swiveling right and left like the lane is all yours
as far as the eye can see.
I move my car to your lane, just to catch
a speck of your sweat, glean some of the cool
from the air passing over your helmet,
under your billowing shirt.
I wonder, does this make us more free?
You, the empty road, your blackness
making room for itself here, taking up space,
willing us to follow or get out of the way—
even here, where freedom from the British
meant pick some more cotton, boy,
we’re ready for dinner, gal,
don’t you know you’re mine, open your legs.

Tony! Toné! Toni! is playing from my iPhone,
filling the car with it never rains, and it isn’t,
it’s not quite dark yet, the heat still sits
in the middle of the sky,
and I think you might feel me gaining on you
because you turn your head just so,
twice, three times, then you’re off,
the lane divisions dissolving under your diagonal path
toward the airport, where I’m more than convinced
you’ll slip onto the runway
and take off into the air,
sprout black feathers and eclipse the setting sun—
Ashley M. Jones received an MFA in Poetry from Florida International University (FIU), where she was a John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Fellow. She served as Official Poet for the City of Sunrise, Florida’s Little Free Libraries Initiative from 2013-2015, and her work was recognized in the 2014 Poets and Writers Maureen Egen Writer’s Exchange Contest and the 2015 Academy of American Poets Contest at FIU. She was also a finalist in the 2015 Hub City Press New Southern Voices Contest, the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award Contest, and the National Poetry Series. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in The Academy of American Poets, Prelude, Steel Toe Review, Night Owl, The Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy, pluck!, Valley Voices: New York School Edition, Fjords Review: Black American Edition, PMSPoemMemoirStory, Kinfolks Quarterly, Lucid Moose Press’ Like a Girl: Perspectives on Femininity Anthology and others. She received a 2015 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award and a 2015 B-Metro Magazine Fusion Award. Her debut poetry collection, Magic City Gospel, is forthcoming from Hub City Press in January 2017. She serves as an editor of PANK Magazine, and she currently lives in Birmingham, Alabama, where she is a faculty member in the Creative Writing Department of the Alabama School of Fine Arts.