10 Poems by QPOC That Snatched My Wig in 2017


This is the part where I am supposed to introduce the poems below. But, I really think the poems need to speak for themselves. I have been broken, uplifted, stressed, full of anxiety, loved, and stripped completely clean this year. These poems offered some solace. I hope they do the same for you. 

As follows: 


by Hieu Minh Nguyen, published in POETRY

Standing in front of a mirror, my mother tells me she is ugly
says the medication is making her fat. I laugh & walk her
back to the bed. My mother tells me she is ugly in the same voice
she used to say no woman could love you & I watch her
pull at her body & it is mine. My heavy breast.
My disappointing shape. She asks for a bowl of plain broth
& it becomes the cup of vinegar she would pour down my throat.
Everyday after school, I would kneel before her.
I would remove my clothes & ask her to mark the progress.
It’s important that I mention, I truly wanted to be beautiful
for her. In my dreams I am thin & if not thin, something better.
I tell my mother she is still beautiful & she laughs. The room fills
with flies. They gather in the shape of a small boy. They lead her
back to the mirror, but my reflection is still there.


A Lesson in Dream Logic
by Yasmin Belkhyr, published in Underblong Journal

My sister and I were in the street, and it was late, and my niece ate yogurt. She has my hair: that is the truth. I’ve learned some things these past few years. Wasps and their milk. The sun bursting into red. The sky small and yellow in my palm. My nephew threw rocks: that is the truth. I want a man to hurt me: that is the truth. Think of the phrase, out of touch. Without touch. I never explained what kind of pain I want. There are some things no therapist wants to hear. Ultimately, there is just jutted blue and dead moon and waves the color of cotton candy. You are not the wounded dog, pelted with rocks. In this dream, my sister and I were in the street. It was late. I bought my niece yogurt. In this dream, there is only sky, in my mouth, teeth chewing the clouds to mist. 


Apotheosis [or, The Field Between the Dead & the Living]
by Michael Wasson, published in Poetry NW

& forgive me
for I cannot

tell you how
to begin

but here
is the body

like the urge
to pray

your mouth
already gone.

& we never
said you: a boy


the animal made
with two hands

& lost
in the field

for human life

to reenter
as if through

a door

yet the dead
who love

are still

the touch

of blood-
warmed skin—

abandon you
like every

like this

single paradise
of every-

body’s silence
rusting day-

light into
the only dusk

we have
been made

to see.


by Kristin Chang, published in The Shade Journal

 In Taiwan the rain spits on my skin.
            I lose the way to my grandmother’s
house, eat a papaya by the side of the road,

            papaya in Taiyu meaning wood
melon. My grandmother’s house is wood
            & always wet, as if absence

holds water.  As if drowning
            itself.  My stomach oversweetens
on fruit, wears a belt of rot.  Pre-

            typhoon heat coiling back
like a punch.  I take a train from Yilan
            to Taipei, the same route

my mother fled when the Japanese came.
            By the side of the road, she saw a child eating
another child’s face. What my mother

            ate during wartime: five flies
in oil.  The open sores of fruit & so
            much rain. Once, a girl gunned

down with her mouth full
            of milk.  Once, my mother
bent to drink from another

            girl’s mouth. In Taipei, I watch bodies
syrup in my heat-slow sight. A blonde
            woman in an advertisement

for skin bleach, looking like
            my ex, looking like my first
-world face.  I watched

            the typhoon from the 65th
floor of the Marriot, watched
            smaller buildings lean

like thirst to water. After, a salt scent
            inflecting the air.  In my mouth, a sea’s
accent. In Yilan, they will gather the dead

            parts of the trees & burn away
the rot.  It was my grandmother
            who taught me to burn

only what you must, then water
            the rest.  Who taught me
that a tree is a body

            through which water becomes fire.
In Yilan, my mother harvested sugar
            cane, dragon’s eye, unidentified

limbs, small & sickling like fruit
            fallen before it is ripe.  In another country,
my mother watches soap operas

           in her native dialect, about time
traveling women who fall in love
            with Japanese soldiers.  I dream about

being loved in another time
            zone. About meeting a woman here,
speaking in a Chinese that bursts

            apart in our mouths like fruitpulp.
We will pretend it is love
            that lasts.  I pretend not to know

what men do.  What women
            remember. I understand the news
enough to know another typhoon

            is coming, another estimated body
count: infinite.  According to the news,
            it is possible to predict violence

like a storm.  I call my mother
            & she speaks to me in three languages
but names me in one: Kristin, meaning

            bearer of Christ.  In my name, too many names
for god.  Through the second typhoon,
            I sleep with my fist against my jaw,

wake with my teeth hitting ache
            like a surprise pit.  I dream of telling

my mother I love her

            country.  I dream of telling
my mother I identify sexually as
            alive. Instead, I sleep

until evening, dream of frying
            Yilan in an oily dark.  When
my grandmother died, we were asleep

            in America, 15 hours ahead
in the night, waking up
            in her future. When she died, I imagine

all the trees did too.  I imagine
            the trees I touch are new
generations of the same

            loss. I left Yilan while the sea still
boiled with stormbirth.  In Chinese,
            typhoon is tai feng, sharing a word

with tai wan. A nation named
            after its greatest disaster. My body
named for what it bears, what

            it bares: this nation,
where nothing is still
            waiting to be saved

& the dead are still


Field Guide Ending in a Deportation
by Marcel Hernandez Castillo, published in 92Y

I confess to you my inadequacies. I want to tell you things I do not know about myself. I’ve made promises to people whom I will never see again. I’ve cried in an airport bathroom stall in El Paso, TX when immigration denied my father’s application. It felt like a mathematical equation—everything on one side needed to equal everything on the other. It almost made sense to be that sad. I am not compelled to complicate this metaphor. I’m selling this for two dollars. Years ago, on my birthday, I came out to my friends. I thought about the possibility of painting their portraits. What a stupid idea. I’ve started to cover up certain words with Barbie stickers in my journal. It occurs to me, sitting in my car, at a Dollar General parking lot, in search of cheap balloons for a party which I do not care about, that I am allowed my own joy. I pick the brightest balloons, pay, drive home and dress for the party. I mouth the words happy birthday to you in a dark room lit by everyone’s phone cameras. Afterwards, I enter all of my emails from five years into a cloud engine and the most used word is ok. I confess that I have had a good life. I spend many nights obsessing over the placement of my furniture. I give you my boredom. I give you my obligation. I give you the night I danced and danced and danced at a child’s birthday party, drunk and by myself. I’ve been someone else’s shame. It’s true, at its core, amá was deported because she was hit by a car. For years to come, this will be the ending of a sad joke she likes to tell. I laugh each time she tells the joke to strangers. Something about how there is more metal than bone in her arm. Something about a magnet. She says I thought I had died and death meant repeating a name forever. She says el jardin encierra la boca de mis pasos. But this is a bad translation. It’s more like I felt like a star, I felt like somebody famous.


Dirt Being Dirt
by Carl Phillips, published in Poets.org

The orchard was on fire, but that didn’t stop him from slowly walking
straight into it, shirtless, you can see where the flames have
foliaged—here, especially—his chest. Splashed by the moon,
it almost looks like the latest proof that, while decoration is hardly
ever necessary, it’s rarely meaningless: the tuxedo’s corsage,
fog when lit scatteredly, swift, from behind—swing of a torch, the lone
match, struck, then wind-shut…How far is instinct from a thing
like belief? Not far, apparently. At what point is believing so close
to knowing, that any difference between the two isn’t worth the fuss,
finally? A tamer of wolves tames no foxes, he used to say, as if avoiding
the question. But never meaning to. You broke it. Now wear it broken.


After The Abortion, an Older White Planned Parenthood Volunteer Asks If My Husband Is Here & Squeezes My Thigh and Says, “You Made The Right Decision,” and Then “Look What Could Happen If Trump Were President, I Mean, You Might Not Even Be Here.”
by Camonghne Felix, published in Pen America

What else could           I say     except I                        agree with you              really am bulldozed
with grief
                      my strength a whistle in this cold parabola          everything an arc nemesis      all of
my self a bowl
              Instead  I said               yes       he is here I mean my    fiance    I know            I made   the right decision        of course he is okay    we already             agreed on this plan        i mean look what could           happen             she says Hillary is our only option        I say I know    Look    I haven’t told anyone this             I am quitting my job    she says           my god             I think I    
              understand your           geography no               not really          I mean I’m        leaving my good god government job              I work for        the            governor         she says are you running                    I say    sort of I mean            I’m       going to work                           for Hillary
              for            America          because           we’re looking at a critical       fault     otherwise
and I know they need me                                   they told me                         they need       
              my colloquial   criticalities my totalizing          abnormalities my          compounds and
constructs of trajectory            this is the only how I know to be had               I belong to the
              people but not your                  people I mean

              I’m saying        my people                                you wouldn’t understand this                I’m
stealthy and svelte       I can counter-swell                 any tide      I           am       prepared
              she holds my hands                says thank you            you must know that it           matters
all of it matters                   
              in the bed next to me a          woman solid with         anguish and sleep         is ruby with
the wash of         bleeding out and      no one is          tending         i look down at myself, curried
              with the same deep pink        realize no  one is          tending in the taxi cab              my
husband i mean fiance                          holds my hands his fingers           all lead                       a dying
creek at the pitch of  a sword              he  says i’m okay          when                you’re okay       you
have to be okay            remember they’re waiting         on you             for days i slept like this
                             my open submission                to the cosmic opacities             of time           my
body shedding its just-built            mouth          he lies awake                meters between        us
              steady                            documenting a decay               my black studies professor said
              what are you here for               if          you’re not             willing  to die for it       I Get   it
              I’m       skunked with   the fear of        what I’m willing           to kill for it        where do I
file this nuance              to whom do I spare this                        complaint       

               When I woke                he’d been fed              watered                           wanted for
               realized he                   didn’t need my indecision        or       his inability to travel    time
               or         the       bottomless        glamor of conquering the unknown                I know now
the         octane  faults of our                  ontological      duties             the war between becoming
and         the formal        unbecoming of        being called and they said they   needed me     they
did so I went        we bellied the hole                 I did what my mother             asked of me
               stepped into the heavy       quilt of her ill drawn life               I did     my       fucking
               job I did           what I was told             in the end all my chemistry a performance of
gratitude               all my insides turned    purple with practical    storms on election
               night I flipped from                
                                        channel to channel                   neurosis in practice      as
                                        weighted predictions balance              the draw I think          no oh please
                                        you know what I’ve bled          for this             in the distance a lone
                                        voice is soprano with cheer and the silence
settles in           succeeds with               bare platitudes 
              I swear my love                       I did my best I worked with                 what I know I tilled
             I paved I          foraged labored            a land

got us   some               growth                settled           my currents      left       all of us

                           famished          bloody             hungry at         war


To Disembark
by Jayson P. Smith, published in 92Y

after Glenn Ligon

it stands to reason suffering was last. a score of
surface-level disasters, with intention. gluten-free
for the sake of textbooks. it’s July. someone’s tired of the poor.
air quality action day & no matter the season,
me: wailing about loss in pentameter. name
a prettier way to plead diaspora. no one commands
social death & yet, compliance. like a Kardashian,
my desire: on display as transactional. aspartame
sweet, immaterial like credit scores or closure. i remain
a good boy for you, America—barebacking debt like a man,
talking shit about the state on my iPhone. grand,
isn’t it: to represent a people, only in blame?


An American Sunrise
by Joy Harjo, published in POETRY

We were running out of breath, as we ran out to meet ourselves. We
were surfacing the edge of our ancestors’ fights, and ready to strike.
It was difficult to lose days in the Indian bar if you were straight.
Easy if you played pool and drank to remember to forget. We
made plans to be professional — and did. And some of us could sing
so we drummed a fire-lit pathway up to those starry stars. Sin
was invented by the Christians, as was the Devil, we sang. We
were the heathens, but needed to be saved from them — thin
chance. We knew we were all related in this story, a little gin
will clarify the dark and make us all feel like dancing. We
had something to do with the origins of blues and jazz
I argued with a Pueblo as I filled the jukebox with dimes in June,
forty years later and we still want justice. We are still America. We
know the rumors of our demise. We spit them out. They die



The Personal Animal
by Justin Phillip Reed, published in Boston Review

after Baba Badji & francine j. harris

It must be my lust for the musk of the master.
Nights it finds me. In the knick
between vertebrae, it flickers ambition to future inferno.
It huffs at the door of my heat,
my laundress humidity come loose and whipping
the keyhole. I confess: sometimes I let it sorry
white down the lumber. There’s the tick
in my tailbone, a spasm of glut.
It slobs out there a century, saying
it won’t let itself happen again.
And because I hold in me
a clutch of grains I call a healthy self,
because I’m flattered my blood can still beacon,
I answer No but with my nose,
my chin already steering the back arch.
I sigh a neigh the wrong way
like the end of a question coming. I can’t help
anything limp across a bed of straw
at times like these, though the cricket business beckons
squarely through the backdoor screen—
I can’t tell a courting from a fight song after all. Dang.
See me knob inside my hips, dribble into sump
more comfortable. Here it go:
drape its whole hazy swole over
the moonbreak backstroking floorboards,
flush the light in the wink to a less sad elsewhere,
jerk like a snout there.
Lemme pretend I don’t let it in,
the cornered vermin of my brain meat all sag and screech
like a cot under coitus. Pretend I don’t still
want its hand in me. Like the sleep
isn’t different after my poppet mouth watermelons
to the shack seams’ nursery-rhymed ache.
Like this is just a dream, these nights
it skunks down here and delayers me
to the red velvet. It’s real stink
on my lip when sun rivers in but otherwise
hardly a trickle of. I’ve been thinking about—
like a run in a stocking
or mosquito through a mission of mesh—
this tenant of my cockles, how its given me
maybe a grief to run off at the mouth about,
but then, when the blotches don’t diminish in the wash,
I get to chatter-gnawing at the tail
end of a slip to give it. I get to talking about
running off as if there aren’t six feet between us.


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