Poem: From the pocket of his lip

On his song “Jump In”, Wale rhymes: “They say cappin I say wellin, I’in’t bout to change it up. The two words are synonymous with lying...


On his song “Jump In”, Wale rhymes: “They say cappin I say wellin, I’in’t bout to change it up. The two words are synonymous with lying. And I remember back home, how, as a kid in Prince George County, Maryland, “wellin” could be malicious, but was also often a way to invent a better world than the one we live in. of His Lip “takes me back to that time, and how surprising it is that even on the saddest days, with the saddest memories, we do more than curse with our rosy confessions. Maybe our lies come from ‘a strange man with an oboe, who reminds us of our faults and the faults of those we love, and how they too could play beautifully. Selected by Reginald Dwayne Betts

By Airea D. Matthews

Smoke rose under my father’s tongue. There a strange man with
an oboe sitting on the crest of its tooth, playing large vibratos
through the nimbus fog. I asked why here was there too.

Fine tuning of the orchestra of lies.

I nodded. They play beautifully, don’t they?

Especially in your key. Hmm for me.


Reginald Dwayne Betts ia poet and lawyer. He created Freedom Reads, an initiative to organize micro-libraries and install them in prisons across the country. His latest collection of poetry, “Felon”, explores the post-incarceration experience. His 2018 New York Times Magazine article on his journey from teenage carjacker to working lawyer won a National Magazine Award. He is a 2021 MacArthur Fellow. Airea D. Matthews is a poet whose work includes “Simulacra” (Yale University Press, 2017), which won the 2016 Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. She is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Bryn Mawr College.

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