I grieve forced laughter, shrieks sharp as broken
champagne flutes and the bright white necks I wanted
to press the shards against. I grieve the dead bird of my right
hand on my chest, the air escaping my throat’s prison,
the scream mangled into a mere “ha!” I grieve unearned
exclamations. I grieve saying “you are so funny!” I grieve
saying “you’re killing me!” when I meant to say “you are
killing me.” I have died right in front of you so many times;
my ghost is my plus-one tonight. I grieve being your Black
confidante. I grieve being your best and your only. I grieve
“But you get it, right?” Right. I grieve that I got it
and I get it and I am it.
From Alive At the End of the World (Coffee House Press, 2022) Copyright © 2022 by Saeed Jones. Reprinted with the permission of Coffee House Press.
I shall hate you
Like a dart of singing steel
Shot through still air
As pines are sober
When they stand etched
Against the sky.
Hating you shall be a game
Played with cool hands
And slim fingers.
Your heart will yearn
For the lonely splendor
Of the pine tree
While rekindled fires
In my eyes
Shall wound you like swift arrows.
Memory will lay its hands
Upon your breast
And you will understand
From The Book of American Negro Poetry (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922) edited by James Weldon Johnson. This poem is in the public domain.