The Definition of Place


In stock

poems by

Randall Horton

Poetry book, 96 pages, cover price $12

ISBN: 978-1-59948-041-1

Release date: 2010

This title was selected for publication after finishing as runner-up in the 2006 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award.


R_HortonPxRandall Horton

Randall Horton, originally from Birmingham, Alabama, resides in Albany, New York. He is a former editor of WarpLand: A Journal of Black Literature and Ideas (Fall 2005) and co-editor of Fingernails Across the Chalkboard (Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing, 2006). He received his undergraduate education at both Howard University and The University of the District of Columbia (B.A. English). He has a MFA in Creative Writing with an emphasis in Poetry from Chicago State University. He is also a first year doctoral student at SUNY Albany. Randall received an Archie D. and Bertha H. Walker Foundation Summer Scholarship to attend Fine Arts Workcenter at Provincetown in 2005. He is also a Cave Canem fellow.

People will find their way to Randall Horton’s poetry the way they find their way to church. Fifteen pages into The Definition of Place and you’ll stop and catch your breath. Horton’s poetry makes you want to trace your fingertips across the words. He writes like he is a contender for heavyweight poetry champion of the world. Read, praise and jab.

E. Ethelbert Miller
African American Resource Center
Howard University


Horton defines intimate places in the American epic of the Great Migration, opening the tender spaces that define these lives as real. He announces a life after work in motifs spanning the culinary and the pugilistic. Springing from an imagination that admires Joe Louis for bringing it all home, this is an honest and admirable beginning for a poet, a collection full of integrity.

–Afaa Michael Weaver
Poet and Playwright
Alumnae Professor of English,. Simmons College


When momma washed my clothes
in a slow-burning pot filled with
sagebrush and sweetgrass, I would
move to the half-light of our lean-to,
let the shyness of my shadow hold me
as if I were a smile that could stretch
no further. My voice would betrayed me
as I sucked my thumb and stared at
her long black hair soaking in the sun.
The way it fell like a river fall onto
a pool of freedom made me proud
to be her daughter. Momma was prettier
than a porcelain statue when she wore
her white calico dress on Sunday’s.
She told me the way to get a man
was to bathe in rose oil and myrrh,
let him smell the scent of your skin,
hold him with the rain-black of your eyes.


Working six and a half on seven,
all I got is one breath for a dipper,
then back to the grind, smell of sugar-
cane soaked in my skin. I’m slicing this
machete left to right, swinging stalks
like my unborn child depends on it,
sweating heavy while boss in the shade
with double barrel eyes pointed at me.
Every time I fill a cart, send it down
the cow-path, here come another, pretty
soon things start running together and
I ain’t no different from that hinny
going round and round, squeezing juice
from a Golden No. 4; county making
thirty-five cent a day on me, might as
well be my blood, one drop at a time.


It was a great gasp of breath,
a painful push into midwife’s
arms who welcomed our son
shedding August rain. Twelve
long months have silenced
the way we language each other
in body rhythm. Missed is
the way you tug my peach tree
braid tight against your chest
and we lie spoon shaped in the
glow of a silent night. I long
to trace country roads inside your
field hands with my fingertips-
for you to see the miracle.
Remember how we pulled
cotton before it sunburned?
Elvie, it’s a New Deal with
Roosevelt. A man can’t keep
throwing dice on whiskey
and home brew. Our miracle
will never feel the sun whip
across his back or sharecrop
year to year with nothing to
show except empty promises
and a shotgun shack. You did
not ripen me too soon. I wait
for the day I feel your strength
against my body, strong
like the first time we kissed.

SKU: 978-1-59948-041-1 Category: Tag:


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