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…
Let’s start with the body.
The body’s been burned.
The body was dragged,
mutilated—the eyes gouged,
into the curb.
The body’s been beaten,
with vigor, as though
were beating something out of himself—
the body a proxy.
The body was dumped,
next to a levee.
The body was found
near the Mississippi river,
a kind of baptism.
The devil is running
whom he may devour.
The devil’s made his home here
in Mississippi, the delta
river basin his mouth—
wide, waiting, wanting to swallow
who gets too close.
That boy done fell in.
Love the sinner, hate the sin.
Sin: without; an innate
lack; a fundamental
That boy done fell in.
He wasn’t the only one.
Another boy was deprived of his tongue
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
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 moon. God,
she has me by the horn.
**Originally published in the Paris-American**
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
Gravel under his feet
becoming soil. That’s
what I remember.
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.
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
**Originally published in The Offing**
Now! You can’t tell me you ain’t dead from reading all that!
Photo taken by Baby Teeth