I’m the matron-king of hell In yoga pants and a disused bra for a laurel & shatter the scene inside your simmering year Like a ransom scene filmed through shattered transom I smear in my glamour I make as if to justify the ways of God to man That’s my ticket in That’s why God lets me speak here Crystostoma’d on his couch Even though I’m derived from Hell Hellish Helenish Hellenic I’m the hanged man in this version pegged up in mine pegged jeans by mine ancles, an inversion mine manacles are monocoles I spit out the key and squinny through the keyhole back at the unquittable world In my rainment of gummy sunglasses and crows wings for epaulets I delicately squawk from the edges of things balance unsteadily on the bust of the goddess squawk: Aeschelus Euphorion Aeschelus Euphorion &: I’m going to tell you something so bad that when you hear it you’re gonna know it’s true. Like all the worst stories It comes from the heart & it goes there too. Back here in St. Joseph County a struck duck flies crown first into the asphalt and is stuck there with its brains for adhesive like someone licked the pavement and sealed it a postalette with its cartoon feet in the air and its Jeff Koon wings that’s roadkill for you: realer than real and the cars mill by with their wheels in reverse heavy as chariots in a dealership commercial and I am walking my dog by the river a matron from hell look on me and despise I am like the river: thick as beer and with a sudsy crown there polyethylene bags drape the banks like herons and a plastic jug rides a current with something like the determination that creases mine own brow as I attempt to burn my lunch off the determination of garbage riding for its drain hey-nonny it’s spring and everything wears a crown as it rides its thick doom to its noplace gently brushed by pollen by the wings of hymenoptera like a helicoptera performing its opera all above Indiana bearing the babes away from their births to their berths in the NICU in Indie-un-apple-us Unapple us, moron God, You’ve turned me Deophobic the greasy tracks you leave all over the internet the slicey DNA in the scramblechondria the torn jeans panicked like space invaders in an arcane video game oh spittle-pink blossom the tree don’t need nomore shook down to slick the pavement like a payslip you disused killer app each thought strikes my brain like the spirals in a ham pink pink for easter sliced by something machinic each thought zeros in flies hapless and demented festooned like a lawn dart finds its bit of eye spills its champagne split of pain then we come to our senses suddenly alone in the endzone
Copyright © 2018 by Joyelle McSweeney. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 13, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn’t he danced his did.
Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn’t they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain
children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more
when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone’s any was all to her
someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream
stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)
one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was
all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.
Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain
From Complete Poems: 1904–1962 by E. E. Cummings, edited by George J. Firmage. Used with the permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation. Copyright © 1923, 1931, 1935, 1940, 1951, 1959, 1963, 1968, 1991 by the Trustees for the E. E. Cummings Trust. Copyright © 1976, 1978, 1979 by George James Firmage.
Tamir Rice, 2002–2014
the boy’s face
climbed back down the twelve-year tunnel
of its becoming, a charcoal sunflower
swallowing itself. Who has eyes to see,
or ears to hear? If you could see
what happens fastest, unmaking
the human irreplaceable, a star
falling into complete gravitational
darkness from all points of itself, all this:
the held loved body into which entered
milk and music, honeying the cells of him:
who sang to him, stroked the nap
of the scalp, kissed the flesh-knot
after the cord completed its work
of fueling into him the long history
of those whose suffering
was made more bearable
by the as-yet-unknown of him,
playing alone in some unthinkable
future city, a Cleveland,
whatever that might be.
Two seconds. To elapse:
the arc of joy in the conception bed,
the labor of hands repeated until
the hands no longer required attention,
so that as the woman folded
her hopes for him sank into the fabric
of his shirts and underpants. Down
they go, swirling down into the maw
of a greater dark. Treasure box,
comic books, pocket knife, bell from a lost cat’s collar,
why even begin to enumerate them
when behind every tributary
poured into him comes rushing backward
all he hasn’t been yet. Everything
that boy could have thought or made,
sung or theorized, built on the quavering
but continuous structure
that had preceded him sank into
an absence in the shape of a boy
playing with a plastic gun in a city park
in Ohio, in the middle of the afternoon.
When I say two seconds, I don’t mean the time
it took him to die. I mean the lapse between
the instant the cruiser braked to a halt
on the grass, between that moment
and the one in which the officer fired his weapon.
The two seconds taken to assess the situation.
I believe it is part of the work
of poetry to try on at least
the moment and skin of another,
for this hour I respectfully decline.
I refuse it. May that officer
be visited every night of his life
by an enormity collapsing in front of him
into an incomprehensible bloom,
and the voice that howls out of it.
If this is no poem then…
But that voice—erased boy,
beloved of time, who did nothing
to no one and became
nothing because of it—I know that voice
is one of the things we call poetry.
It isn’t to his killer he’s speaking.
"In Two Seconds: Tamir Rice, 2002-2014" previously appeared in the May-June 2015 issue of American Poetry Review. Copyright © 2015 by Mark Doty. Used with permission of the author.