“You almost scared us to death,” my mother muttered
as she stripped the leaves from a tree limb to prepare
it for my back.
            —Richard Wright, Black Boy

My son nests—pawing
each pillow like a breast
fleshed out and so newly
forgotten. I’ve spanked him

once tonight. He takes turns
laughing, then crying, defiant,
then hungry. In his mouth
my name—all need. Pursed

lips plead, Mommy and I
am guilty of the same sin.
I miss his curled and tucked
weight. Embryo, the deepest

root yanked clean. This is why
babies are born crying
into this world, having held
fast to such an intimate tether

who willingly would let go?
But today another white cop walked
free, another black body was still
on the ground. “Not indicted”

undoubtedly the future outcome.
Four years ago I crossed labor’s
red sea of pain to birth a boy—
no doctor hit his backside, now I raise

my hand to complete an act
older than me, breaking the black
back of the boy to make a man
who can survive in America.

Mommy he calls me and my teats
threaten to weep old milk at our stasis.
Both of us needing the succor of sleep,
both of us fighting—him, to keep me near

me, punishing him to be left alone.
He crawls into my lap, his heart
is three, his body, a lanky four.
I cover him with a blanket

too thin to mean it. We rock
on the edge of his bed. Listening
to the symphony’s fourth movement:
the crescendo sweet, full of tension,

taut violin strings singing. I think
Mozart must have known something
of loving with such a tender fear
that it breaks you open like a welt

that bleeds to heal. Tonight I give up,
cuddling this boy so full of belief
in himself, I’m too tired with love
to beat it out of him.

Copyright © 2017 Teri Ellen Cross Davis. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Fall 2017.

for Michael Brown (1996–2014)

Officer, for hours I lay there.
The sun at my back.
My blood running a country

mile between the pavement
and the crown of my head.
No ambulance ever came.

It took a long time to cover my body.
There are politics to death
and here politics performs

its own autopsies. My aunties
say things like, Boy big and black as you.
Then, the prosecution rests.

My neighbors never do. They lose
sleep as the National Guard parades
down Canfield. I heard my blood

was barely dry. I heard there were soldiers
beating their shields like war cries,
my boys holding hands to hold on

through your tear gas. Heard my mother
wandered the streets,
her body trembling

between a sign of a cross
and a fist. I heard a rumor
about riots got started.

Officer, I heard that after so much blood,
the ground develops
a taste for it.

Copyright 2017 © Hafizah Geter. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Fall 2017.

We walked the museum in a stupor, sick.
The photographs, the newspapers,
the lampshade made of sewn skin,
the auditorium, monstrous high-gloss paintings,
single faces lit.
The metal tree outside a silhouette:
naked bodies falling
up and out like branches.
Below the tree the crowd
of too-young soldiers talked. The day before
other soldiers detained a student
and his new Muslim friend.
The man had dressed him
to sneak onto the Dome of the Rock.

.   .   .

One night in Lent a representative
from the Muslim congregation came
to talk to the people of a church.
The imam said forgiveness
is not the same
as reconciliation.
I was teaching writing via immigration laws.
The students argued languages.
The candidates argued walls.
The imam asked the people:
What communities live underground?
Whom don’t we talk about or see?
Whom are we silencing?

.     .     .

At the museum we saw the names written.
We heard the names through speakers in the walls.
We saw the faces spiraling up.
For once we,
the Americans at Yad Vashem,
did not talk.
.     .     .
Khalid spoke about oppression and the Quran.
He put quotes on his PowerPoint.
He read the passage loud:
Slay them every one.
Then he reminded us: Muhammad
wrote a letter of protection
for the monks at the base of the Mountain of God.
.     .     .
I saw that mountain gray-beige—color of cremains.
There are two principle ways
to the summit. The steeper climb they call
the steps of penitence—the most direct route.
We went the other way.
A Bedouin boy led the camel train—
the beasts running in grunts,
spittle and foam strung from their mouths.
At the top a mosque.
Pads for pilgrims to sleep.
An Orthodox chapel. The usual rocks.
And the view of the mountains,
like fractals,
.     .     .
No one told us to be quiet.
We had already seen the wall
some call Geder HaHafrada,
and others jidar al-fasl al-‘unsuri.
We had bussed through the checkpoints eating dates.
The New York Times and the BBC
refer to the wall as a barrier,
West Bank barrier, or separation barrier.
We had visited the café in the new city
outside the old wall.
A week later the café was bombed.
.     .     .
The candidates stopped talking walls
and started raising fists against radical Islam.
.     .     .
Khalid said, I am a Muslim;
                                             I am not Islam.

.     .     .

He ended the Q&A thanking us for the invitation
and attention.
I did not mention the dates or the Mountain of God
or the soldiers.

I did not talk to them at all.

But to the side he told the woman with the tied-up dreads
he is afraid we believe
we will repeat history

if we allow ourselves to speak.


Copyright © 2017 Amanda Hawkins. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Fall 2017.

Even the most kindhearted white woman,
Dragging herself through traffic with her nails
On the wheel & her head in a chamber of black
Modern American music may begin, almost
Carelessly, to breathe n-words. Yes, even the most
Bespectacled hallucination cruising the lanes
Of America may find her tongue curls inward,
Entangling her windpipe, her vents, toes & pedals
When she drives alone. Even the most made up
Layers of persona in a two- or four-door vehicle
Sealed in a fountain of bass & black boys
Chanting n-words may begin to chant inwardly
Softly before she can catch herself. Of course,
After that, what is inward, is absorbed.

Copyright © 2017 Terrance Hayes. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Fall 2017.

a life loan, the right blue dream
home, the ownership you deserve,
the industry to preserve. The providers help
you want it. We mortgage you “yes” and flex-
best-ible. One proud customer at a time.
That’s American wisdom: easier,
more of everything. Everyone deserves
the encore, a raise, respect, results, whatever
dream of local achieve. Purchase it, being.
Proud sponsor of do-done-faster, we
service new solutions, right answers.
We power your expectations of making,

dreams of shade-covered _ _ _ _ _ _.
Employees dedicate themselves to

the World's fulfilling, the family way. Know
the conforming American gets the mortgage.

Dream easier. Dream of good. Dream
today's/tomorrow's guaranteed lead.

Common solutions have purchase. Done it.
Un. Non. All dreams will chip.

Copyright © 2017 Claire McQuerry. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Fall 2017.

You ask about the leaves and I tell you it’s been so dry here
the leaves are just giving up, turning brown, falling off the trees,
which all look dead. This might be a metaphor for the election or
might be a metaphor for nothing—it’s hard to say. Each morning
I wake up to machines across the street jackhammering limestone,
shearing away more rock-face and turning it to rubble strewn across
red clay soil so dry it heaves and cracks. It’s been seven weeks of
drilling and blasting, drilling and blasting, and that’s not a metaphor
for anything either except maybe my midlife crisis, which I’m surely
having as there’s whiskey next to me and I’m up all night wondering
if I can be hairless again in some risqué places. Most days I refuse
to believe we’re doomed, despite growing evidence to the contrary.
I mean, it’s like the 1970s down there. Trust me. Most days, I listen
to NPR on my car radio and talk to one son or the other in the back seat
and ask them questions they sometimes answer as we drive home
past the pile of rubble and the leafless trees, which vaguely resemble
the girl I saw on campus wearing an entire shaggy outfit made from
flesh-colored plastic grocery bags campaigning on an environmental
platform for student council president. Her amazing bag-suit was rustling
in the breeze and it looked like she might take flight, just soar over campus
with the drones delivering burritos this week as a test stunt because
our motto here is Invent the Future, which I think about a lot—not as
‘your future’ in the sense of what I wanted to be when I grew up,
which I figured out by process of elimination was not a banker or a
computer programmer, and I never saw myself as a mother either but
here I am. More like I would invent a future where my black son will not
get shot by police for playing in a park, or driving, or walking from his
broken-down car. I would invent a future where there was always
enough chalk to leave notes for the next class: we are starting a revolution
somehow; instructions to follow. What no one told me about programming
computers for Merrill Lynch to keep their front-end trading systems
running past Y2K was that I was simply a dominatrix of code; the disaster
that would take our building down came later, and had nothing to do
with language. My cashier at Kroger has an epigraph on her name badge
under “Paula” that says, “I Will Make Things Right.” I hope that girl
wins her election. I hope that someday someone else will enter my
hairless palace and find it marvelous. The photos of broken glass; the piles
of rubble. The future is throttling towards us and it’s loud and reckless.


Copyright © 2017 Erika Meitner. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Fall 2017.

        Honolulu, Hawaii

We host a small family party to celebrate
my daughter’s second birthday. This year
is the hottest in history, breaking the record
set when she was born. Still, I grill meat
over charcoal and watch smoke crawl
through air like the spirits of sacrificial
animals. Still, I crave a cigarette, even after
quitting five years ago, even after my clothes
no longer smell like my grandpa’s tobacco
breath (his oxygen tank still scratches the tiled
floor of memory and denial). My dad joins me
outside and says, “Son, when I die, scatter
my ashes to the ocean, far from this heat.”
Inside, my mom is cooking rice and steaming
vegetables. They’ve traveled from California,
where millions of trees have become tinder
after years of drought, fueling catastrophe.
When my daughter’s body first hosted fever,
the doctor said, “It’s a sign she’s fighting
infection.” Volcanoes erupt along fault lines
and disrupt flight patterns; massive flames
force thousands to evacuate tar sands
oil country. When we can’t control fire,
we name it “wild” and pray to God for rain;
when we can’t control God, we name it “war”
and pray to votives for peace. “If her fever
doesn’t break,” the doctor said, “take her
to emergency.” Violence rises with the temper-
ature, which knows no borders; air strikes
detonate hospitals in countries whose names
are burnt fossils: Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan,
South Sudan, Iraq . . . “When she crowned,”
my wife said, “it felt like rings of fire.”
Garment factories in Bangladesh char and
collapse; refugees self-immolate at a detention
center on Nauru; forests across Indonesia
are razed for palm oil plantations, their plumes,
like the ashen ghosts of birds, flock to our distant
rib cages. When my daughter can’t breathe,
we give her an asthma inhaler. But tonight,
we sing happy birthday and blow out
the candles together. The smoke trembles,
as if we all exhaled the same, flammable wish.


Copyright © 2017 Craig Santos Perez. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Fall 2017.

The funeral past and also I loved him.
And also I, him and so loved past him.
And so all funeral the past ran animal
Up to our eyes, and so, lo, I loved
Any which him, the I-him, the scandal-
Animal of him hanging his newborn
Twenty years past newborn out of a moving car,
The silence of the road sorrowing up.
I didn’t want to begin with music,
The cough of shovels, the hiss of white chairs
Tallying the fraudulence and broken
Hip of my uncle already five days
Past Barabbas, the shekels spent on Hen-
Nessey, the account drained, thieved, drained,
My father, seven days in silence, God
Touching his weariness (or not) like a hunter
That comes upon a broken instrument
In the woods, the thing made feral
By its brokenness so cautiously he attends
To the gut and tender of it, his hand
Raising the neck from the leaves, running one
Finger across its throat and listening
For blood or what blood remains howling. Wolf.

Copyright © 2017 Roger Reeves. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Fall 2017.

They cut off our hair
& there we were

A photograph
In a history i skimmed
So quick
I missed

We were there
Less than elsewhere
Our hair cut
So close the scalp

A row of six
Pixelated moons

Blood rose
To its feet

Our hair not ours
Once separated
Like a finger

The gold
From our teeth

Our hair burned
Made upholstery
Braided for women
Down the street

There on the page
The photograph

A camp  A cage

Right angles
Sharp as a fade
Razors in drag
Black boots & blades

I pull the image up
On my screen
Thumb the six
Bare heads
Sex organs
My face
My face

I’m alive of course
Because others died
& i’ll be survived
By no one

[amen] [amen] [amen]

My gift
To this planet
The singed end
Of a family line

Today a man sits
Beside me
At the piano & plays
A song

My name’s in it
The one about a man
Rendered powerless
By the woman
Who takes his hair

Even here
With his breath
A flatiron
I’m standing
Between twin pillars

My arms cargo
Hardly mine

When he’s done
I take him
To bed & empty
My family
Into his darkness

[I’m sorry]
Again & again [i’m sorry] [i’m sorry]

Though i can’t quite say

Copyright © 2017 sam sax. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Fall 2017.

If the liver is the source of blood: if the liver is the source
of life: if the people live with blood, visceral, on the sidewalks; the news
ticker divining Police Kill:  the news ticker divining Supporters Shout;
if the people mow the bright green golf-course grass
of battlefields:  Pea Ridge, Antietam:  dust the sky with flags
and mow the grass, and the liver blinks toxic as a neon sign,
and the men move the pegs in the stock market
and the men water the grass; and Hate and Hate; and the men
say, Let the President; and the people say, Compassion; and the liver
reveals its dark deities on the walls of buildings;
its ancient symbols; and the liver reveals the people’s bodies
coursing strange bloods; and the men lean in closer to observe
how their pockets fill; and the liver shines like the knife
that opens it; the liver shines like a safe word on a tongue;
and someone says, It’s all consensual. And someone says, Help.

Copyright © 2017 Alexandra Teague. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Fall 2017.