color bleeding

one year, i carried the blues around
like a baby. sure, my coffee mugs cupped

amethysts :: water gushed, rose-tinted
and -scented, from the faucets at my touch ::
the air orange with butterflies that never

left me. meanwhile, indigo held fast
to my toes :: lapis lapped my fingertips ::

and a hue the shade of mermaid scales
bolted through my hair like lightning.

my eyelids drooped, fell, heavy with sky.
that year i carried the blues around

left me mean :: while indigo held fast,
the daily news tattooed azure to my back. 
true, festivals of lilies buoyed me. but what 

good could white do? the blues grow like
shadows in late sun :: stretch  creep  run.

More by Evie Shockley

canvas and mirror

self-portrait with cats, with purple, with stacks
      of half-read books adorning my desk, with coffee,

                  with mug, with yesterday's mug. self-portrait
            with guilt, with fear, with thick-banded silver ring,

      painted toes, and no make-up on my face. self-
            portrait with twins, with giggles, with sister at

                  last, with epistrophy, with crepescule with nellie,
with my favorite things. self-portrait with hard

head, with soft light, with raised eyebrow. self-
      portrait voo-doo, self-portrait hijinks, self-portrait

                  surprise. self-portrait with patience, with political
            protest, with poetry, with papers to grade. self-

      portrait as thaumaturgic lass, self-portrait as luna
            larva, self-portrait as your mama. self-portrait

                  with self at sixteen. self-portrait with shit-kickers,
with hip-huggers, with crimson silk, with wild

mushroom risotto and a glass of malbec. self-
      portrait with partial disclosure, self-portrait with

                  half-truths, self-portrait with demi-monde. self-
            portrait with a night at the beach, with a view

      overlooking the lake, with cancelled flight. self-
            portrait with a real future, with a slight chance of

                  sours, with glasses, with cream, with fries, with
a way with words, with a propositional phrase.

the fare-well letters [excerpt]

dear ink jet,


          black fast. greasy lightning.
won't smear. won't rub off.
          defense: a visual screen: ask
an octopus (bioaquadooloop).
          footprints faster than a speed-
ing bully, tracking dirt all
          over the page. make every
word count. one. two. iamb.
          octoroon. half-breed. mutt.
mulatto. why are there so few
          hybrids on the road? because
they can't reproduce. trochee
          choking okay mocha. ebony,
by contrast, says so much.

playing with fire

something is always burning, passion,
                        pride, envy, desire, the internal organs 
        going chokingly up in smoke, as some-
                thing outside the body exerts a pull
that drags us like a match across sand-
                        paper. something is always burning, 
        london, paris, detroit, l.a., the neighbor-

                hoods no one outside seems to see until 
they're backlit by flames, when the out-
                        siders, peering through dense, acrid,
        black-&-orange-rimmed fumes, mis-
                take their dark reflections for savages 
altogether alien. how hot are the london
                        riots for west end pearls? how hot in tot-

        tenham? if one bead of cream rolls down 
        one precious neck, heads will roll in brix-
ton: the science of sociology. the mark
                        duggan principle of cause and effect: 
        under conditions of sufficient pressure—
                measured roughly in years + lead ÷ £s—
black blood is highly combustible.

Related Poems

Muse & Drudge [why these blues come from us]

why these blues come from us
threadbare material soils
the original colored
pregnant with heavenly spirit

stop running from the gift
slow down to catch up with it
knots mend the string quilt
of kente stripped when kin split

white covers of black material
dense fabric that obeys its own logic
shadows pieced together tears and all
unfurling sheets of bluish music

burning cloth in a public place
a crime against the state
raised the cost of free expression
smoke rose to offer a blessing

Why Is the Color of Snow?

Let's ask a poet with no way of knowing.
Someone who can give us an answer,
another duplicity to help double the world.

What kind of poetry is all question, anyway?
Each question leads to an iceburn,
a snownova, a single bed spinning in space.

Poet, Decide! I am lonely with questions.
What is snow? What isn't?
Do you see how it is for me.

Melt yourself to make yourself more clear
for the next observer.
I could barely see you anyway.

A blizzard I understand better,
the secrets of many revealed as one,
becoming another on my only head.

It's true that snow takes on gold from sunset
and red from rearlights. But that's occasional.
What is constant is white,

or is that only sight, a reflection of eyewhites
and light? Because snow reflects only itself,
self upon self upon self,

is a blanket used for smothering, for sleeping.
For not seeing the naked, flawed body.
Concealing it from the lover curious, ever curious!

Who won't stop looking.
White for privacy.
Millions of privacies to bless us with snow.

Don't we melt it?
Aren't we human dark with sugar hot to melt it?
Anyway, the question—

if a dream is a construction then what
is not a construction? If a bank of snow
is an obstruction, then what is not a bank of snow?

A winter vault of valuable crystals
convertible for use only by a zen
sun laughing at us.

Oh Materialists! Thinking matter matters.
If we dream of snow, of banks and blankets
to keep our treasure safe forever,

what world is made, that made us that we keep
making and making to replace the dreaming at last.
To stop the terrible dreaming.

In Defense of Henry Box Brown

Not every trauma has a price
point. You & I are special
that way. No doubt, there is good
money to be made in the rehearsal of
a father’s rage, an empty crate,
whatever instrument ushered us into
lives of impure repetition. Years on
end, you replayed your infamous
escape for hundreds
of tearful devoted, sold out
shows an ocean away from the place
that made you possible, made you parcel,
uncommon contraband carried
over amber ululations of grain
& grass & filthy hands:
white, black, unwitting all the same.
If they had only known the weight
of what passed before them.
The wait you waded through.
Twenty-seven hours spent inside
a 3x2 jail of splinter & rust. I too
have signed over the rights to all my
best wounds. I know the stage
is a leviathan with no proper name
to curtail its breadth. I know
the respectable man enjoys a dark body best
when it comes with a good
cry thrown in. I know all the code
words, Henry. Why you nicknamed
the violence. Why all your nightmares
end in vermilion.