10 Poems that Blew Me the **** Away in 2015

There were a tremendous amount of work published this past year, 2015. But, let me tell you, some pieces left me as a coffin beside my laptop. On the train. Even in classes (don’t judge me, classes by white teachers be boring. *shrugs*). And even more important than being left dead by poetry, these ten poems (well, one technically isn’t a poem but whatever) really informed my writing in the best possible way. Ways that I couldn’t have even imagine. I mean, I can’t even fathom how poems like this are even crafted. They’re gods, I tell ya. GODS! Let me shut up. These godly poems are below:


10. Summer by Robin Coste Lewis 

Last summer, two discrete young snakes left their skin on my small porch, two mornings in a row. Being post-modern now, I pretended as if I did not see them, nor understand what I knew to be circling inside me.  Instead, every hour I told my son to stop with his incessant back-chat. I peeled a banana.  And cursed God—His arrogance, His gall—to still expect our devotion after creating love.  And mosquitoes.  I showed my son the papery dead skins so he could know, too, what it feels like when something shows up at your door—twice—telling you what you already know.

**Originally published in Poets.org**



9. Ungrief by Tyrone S. Palmer

                            for Marco McMillian, Steen Fenrich, and too many others…
I.
Let’s start with the body. 
The body’s been burned. 
The body was dragged, 
mutilated—the eyes gouged,
faced pressed
into the curb.
The body’s been beaten, 
with vigor, as though
the killer
were beating something out of himself— 
the body a proxy. 

The body was dumped, 
days later
next to a levee.
The body was found
near the Mississippi river, 
sprawled— 
a kind of baptism.

II.
              The devil is running
                                  rampantly             seeking 
               whom      he           may          devour.

The devil’s made his home here 
in Mississippi, the delta
river basin his mouth— 
wide, waiting, wanting to swallow 
anyone
who gets too close.

That boy done fell in.

                                                                Love the sinner, hate the sin.

Sin: without; an innate
lack; a fundamental 
emptiness.

(into nothingness) 

That boy done fell in.

III.
He wasn’t the only one.
Another boy was deprived of his tongue
                                                                  his torso 
                                                                  his pelvis 
                                                                  his lung
and the skull read “gay nigger #1”

But  what does it mean to do violence to what  is nothing?

“gay nigger” as metaphor. 
“gay nigger” as absence.
“gay nigger” as modernity’s shadow.
“gay nigger number…”

But  what does it mean to do violence to what  is nothing?

**Originally published in MUZZLE Magazine**



8. Boy in Whale Corset by Saeed Jones

The acre of grass is a sleeping
swarm of locusts and in the house
beside it, tears too are mistaken:
thin streams of kerosene
when night throws itself against
the wall, when Nina Simone sings
in the next room without her body
and I’m against the wall, bruised
but out of body: dream-headed
with my corset still on, stays
slightly less tight, bones against
bones, broken glass on the floor
like dance steps for a waltz
with no partner. Father in my room
looking for more sissy clothes
to burn. Something pink in his fist,
negligee, lace, fishnet, whore.
His son’s a whore this last night
of Sodom. And the record skips
and skips and skips. Corset still on,
nothing else on, I’m at the window;
he’s in the field, gasoline jug,
hand full of matches, night made
of locusts, column of smoke
mistaken for Old Testament God.
**Originally published in Connotation Press**


 7. The Cure for Melancholy is to Take the Horn by Natalie Diaz

             Powdered unicorn horn was once thought to cure melancholy.

What carries the hurt is never the wound
   but the red garden sewn by the horn
as it left––and she left. I am rosing, 
   blooming absence, its brilliant alarum.

Brodsky said, Darkness restoreswhat light cannot––
repair. You thrilled me––opened to the comb.
O, wizard, O, wound. I want the ebon bull and the moon––
   I’ve come for the honeyed horn.

Queen Elizabeth traded a castle for a single horn.
   Surrender to the kingdom in my hands––
army of touch marching upon the alcazar 
   of your thighs like bright horns. 

I arrive at you––half bestia, half feast.
   Tonight we harvest the luxed forest 
of Caderas, name the darkful fruit 
   spicing our mouths, separate sweet from thorn.

Lanternist, in your wicked palm, 
   the bronzed lamp of my breast. Strike the sparker––
take me with tremble. Into your lap 
   let me lay my heavy horns.

I fulfilled the prophecy of your throat,
   loosed in you the fabulous wing of my mouth––
red holy-red ghost. I spoke to god, 
   returned to you feathered, seraphimed and horned. 

Our bodies are nothing if not places to be had by, 
   as in, God, she has me by the throat, 
by the hip bone, by the moonGod,
  she has me by the horn.

**Originally published in the Paris-American**

 



 6. I Didn’t Want to Be Good by L.G. Parker
just touched / “were you trying to kill yourself?” / I didn’t / have a mouth / to say/ I wasn’t / would be a lie / I thought / another mouth / could / fix it / she washed / my sheets / every / day / and bled / again / a rusting / stain / between us / still / a chore / a headache / a back black / as plum / bent over / the windowsill / have mercy / she took no / as foreplay / & ate / my yeast infection / karma is quick / & visitation hour / drags / on / I mean / to say / I bled / too / a washcloth / hangs / limp / as me / over a sink / & another she / is worried / any white walls / bed / sheets / thin / white / pillow / can become / Dominion Hospital / with someone / asking / if I’m hurt / I mean / to say / she touched me / like she knew / I didn’t / have / a mouth / to say / thank you.
**Originally published in Nepantla**


5. [_________________] by Phillip B. Williams
                               for…
at night they pulled me into the dark they yelled
I spoke clearly through wool over my head the night
was clear moonlight against the wool their shadows
lengthened by flashlight their pipes shown through
moonlight bloodied edgeless
                                   they removed the wool bag
to see my face to see my face they tilted it beneath
flashlight and counted what teeth remained what
white one of them had a son his face tilted at night
to my lips his teeth were white his face
like night would he recognize this wound this me
I smelled rain with what was left of my nose
with what was left of my nose I bled into my mouth
with what was left of my mouth I spoke my name
                                                        could they
hear my voice breaking blood to speak could they
hear me over truck engine over asphalt hissing beneath
my skin pulled my mouth my nose my blood without its body
dragged down a road where my blood made a road within
a road my mouth a mile back my tongueless name my foot
in a ditch my hands one waits for the other to lift like dust
**Originally published in Boston Review**


4. Lineage by Franny Choi
We let my grandfather live by himself after his second wife died, and his brain unclenched all its hands. We let my generation’s tongues dry in the wind, and my grandfather’s brain was laundry flying up in June. We let my tongue caramelize and stick to itself, and I did not write my grandfather letters. We let my grandfather’s tongue go
sheets to the wind and then he was locking doors and crying for my mother, his daughter-wife, his castle steward. My mother slept in airports trying to stowaway in the clouds to spoon food onto my grandfather’s tongue and hide the lotion bottles. My grandfather’s
mouth stayed open all the time. His brain was a dryer, all the memories tumbling, all the socks mismatched. My grandfather’s brain was an in-sink dispenser, a mechanical stomach making slop of meaning. My grandfather’s mouth wilted into a infant’s useless
fist. My mouth bloomed into a siren, all hive-mind extravagance. My grandfather’s mind unclenched and rolled out in ribbons, and I started noticing the slight give of my memory, the places it wiggled like a baby tooth. After my grandfather died, I said I would write
my grandmother letters. I did not write my grandmother letters. My tongue was still a sock in a dryer, still lost, tumbling, exile, static, lost.//We let my grandfather die, and his brain unclenched all its wives. He gave me a name to dry in the wind. My grandfather’s brain was my brain. Laundry flew up and carmelized into letters. I did not write my grandfather’s apartment. I let my grandfather’s wind lock
my doors. I cried for his mother, wife, daughter, my sister’s wife, my grandfather’s daughter, my mother’s mother. I slept in airports and spooned clouds into my brain. I hid in bottles. I was a mouth open all the time, a mismatched mind. My mouth was a memory, all the brains tumbling, all tongue, all meaning, all slop. My brain a sink
blooming with tongues, an infant’s stomach. My extravagant hive. My useless siren. My grandfather’s memory, a useless tooth, ribbon steward making teeth of rolling. After my grandfather said write, my dry tongue wiggled like dead letters, a tumbling exile, static
exile, exiled sock.//my name tongue / brain tongue / grandfather brain tonguestuck to self / doorlock /memorymouth / slopdaughter / rolltoothlikeribbons / slopname and all dead / braindead / brainsink / uselessstewardess noletters / deadtonguedeadletterstoo / deadlanguage /
deadlanguage / deadlanguage / de dl n ge / ex

//

Pants high. Leather belt.
Gravel under his feet
becoming soil. That’s
what I remember.
**Originally published in The Margins**


3. They Speak of the Body and One Sits Up by Justin Phillips Reed
the public doesn’t know what to think             of you, spook faggot. it
doesn’t think of you             that way. you lie ass-up           on the slab
of its mind, the image a mote           passing tacitly out of light, less than
dead weight, though                  you are surely dying                  as if
dying is your duty           to country.           spook.           you queen out
on main streets           of ghost towns, sword-dancing           prototype
propelled         toward doom: black          puddle bordered in the sketch of
ancient deaths — floatless,           diminutive,           exoskeletal residua —
still life of body with         circumference of bodies —; puddle         reflecting
nothing of use           to a milk-dipped narcissus.           skull of faggot
in the alley, blown         purple on the bricks,         is a kiss, is a         ks
lesion.           gun hot on the lips           like lips. fucked           as gender.
fucking to live. fucking                 appalling. the public                 pales
and pales you           like meat in the wolf maw, snatches the tongue
out           from under and dresses its windows in your shade. spook,
what is your color      scheme? faggot:      floral printed in fist        blood
bloom.       spook: bullet riddled, sifting       air       overhead for clues.
what’s black           and red           and red           all over?     the public
drops         its hand         from the ear where it had         what it thought
was           the decency to whisper.
**Originally published in The Offing**


2. Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong by Ocean Vuong

             After Frank O’Hara / After Roger Reeves

Ocean, don’t be afraid.
The end of the road is so far ahead
it is already behind us.
Don’t worry. Your father is only your father
until one of you forgets. Like how the spine
won’t remember its wings
no matter how many times our knees
kiss the pavement. Ocean,
are you listening? The most beautiful part
of your body is wherever
your mother’s shadow falls.
Here’s the house with childhood
whittled down to a single red tripwire.
Don’t worry. Just call it horizon
& you’ll never reach it.
Here’s today. Jump. I promise it’s not
a lifeboat. Here’s the man
whose arms are wide enough to gather
your leaving. & here the moment,
just after the lights go out, when you can still see
the faint torch between his legs.
How you use it again & again
to find your own hands.
You asked for a second chance
& are given a mouth to empty into.
Don’t be afraid, the gunfire
is only the sound of people
trying to live a little longer. Ocean. Ocean,
get up. The most beautiful part of your body
is where it’s headed. & remember,
loneliness is still time spent
with the world. Here’s
the room with everyone in it.
Your dead friends passing
through you like wind
through a wind chime. Here’s a desk
with the gimp leg & a brick
to make it last. Yes, here’s a room
so warm & blood-close,
I swear, you will wake—
& mistake these walls
for skin.

**Originally published in The New Yorker**


1. Essay on the Awkward / Black / Object by Cameron Awkward-Rich
There are at least two theories about love. Both begin as violence. The subject encounters the object & a slit opens inside him. Love at first sight. Harriet’s master sees her as if for the first time & now must have her. She wakes in the night to a terrible face rising above her, a wasted moon. The question is: once made into an object-for-the-other, how can the thing-for-itself survive?
//
In the airport / the bar / the movie theatre / the grocery store someone looks at you, your face, then your face in the plastic of your card, then the card, then the card, then you are caught in the frame of their looking, sealed between two panes of glass & you don’t know what has caused the moment to harden around you, not this time, but then someone chuckles & lets you pass.
//
Everyone wants to know the story of my name. Everyone. It’s a nigger joke, you know. You already know the story. A man is made into a thing & sutured to it. The name.
//
There’s another option. It’s not the truth, though it might be, which is, in the end, what matters. Now, when the thing is made to do dangerous work, he flings its body from the low rungs of a ladder. Limbs akimbo & fluttering & still alive.
//
Someone is talking. To you. It hardly matters about what—their hand on your hand & you recognize the smile. You stutter. Mumble. Don’t look them in the eye. You fall away from the moment as if pulled by a law governing the motion of your body. You can’t help it. You’re not in control. Give your name as proof.
//
The verb work. Meaning: perform labor and/or function properly. As long as the object works it is bound to its own annihilation. The solution? Fall. Fall apart. Decay.
//
Harriet wasting in the garret. The slave caught in perpetual flight. The body opening to receive the bullet. The monster killing its maker & returning to the certainty of ice.Don’t misunderstand. I don’t hate white people. Nothing here resembles hate, or freedom from hate. Love, after all, is all you need.
//
A nigger walks into a bar. A nigger falls off of a ladder. A nigger is named for its inability to function. To work. You get the joke, right?Awkward as both punishment & method. The unending flight of you to I.
//
We haven’t made it to the punch line. Everyone is waiting. Everyone wants resolution, for the poem to click shut. Who gets the last word? Who, in the end, dictates the story? I’m sorry. I really don’t know.

**Originally published in The Offing**




Now! You can’t tell me you ain’t dead from reading all that!



Photo taken by Baby Teeth

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