Poem in Which the Writer Sees Himself in an Old Textbook, 1943

sam sax
They cut off our hair
& there we were
Hairless.
 
A photograph
In a history i skimmed
So quick
I missed
 
We were there
Less than elsewhere
Our hair cut
So close the scalp
Gleamed
 
A row of six
Pixelated moons
 
Blood rose
To its feet
 
Our hair not ours
Once separated
Like a finger
Nail
 
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
Impossible
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
Extinction
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
Apologizing
 
[I’m sorry]
Again & again [i’m sorry] [i’m sorry]
 
Though i can’t quite say
Why

 

More by sam sax

Doctrine

the time for nuance is over
i argue over breakfast
explaining how it’s oft used
to confuse dissent—knife
through my poached egg.
politicized work made all yolky,
easy to consume & forget.
i dab with the toasted bread
agitation & propaganda i rant
is the only just path for artists
gesturing with my utensils
heavenward. i’ve said a lot
of things which in retrospect
would’ve been better
had i kept my mouth shut.
i once said something to a friend
i won’t repeat here
& now she’s no longer my friend.
i'll never forget what her eyes did
as i finished speaking
stones in a bucket.
words have consequences
they’re both material & reveal
the spirit that speaks them.
what i meant over breakfast
is the time’s too urgent for work
that doesn’t have blood in it.
what i meant is insurgency
is our birthright, that nuance
comes from the french meaning
to shade—why another painting
of a lake when there’s so much
rage boiling outside the canvas?
what does it mean i don’t mean
what i say when i say it? i don’t know
what i mean. silence is golden
& gold’s the standard measurement
for capital. the golden rule is do
unto others as you would have them
do unto you. but what when they do
you ugly first as they always
seem to? i finish my coffee &
it’s political whether i want it
to be or not.

Trans Orbital Lobotomy

in through the eye
 
device adapted from an ice pick
 
the space between the cornea & tear duct tears
 
little incisions along the frontal lobe
 
you open the grapefruit 
 
you open the grape
 
you open 
 
in the '50s there were tens of thousands performed in the states 
 
sour mess. sour mash. mashup. macerate.
 
cut a rug. jitterbug. wonder drug. gutter. tug. suture. lacerate. 
 
erasure. erase. raced. deadened. dead end. 
 
end. replace. 
 
once a doctor removed the frontal lobe of an aggressive ape
 
what followed was a column of ants
 
your relative made new & easy to manage
 
a miracle 
 

Post-Diagnosis

REASON                /               UNREASON

 

the brain is                 

           an unlit synagogue 

easily charted               

           in dark waters

using machines            

           it can baffle faith

& therapy        

           it can asphyxiate

don’t worry                 

           the drowning dogs

your pretty head          

           painted for the gods

it’s simple                    

           to rage & riot & rot

to manage                    

           the vacant parking lot

with the appropriate     

           knives   do what some

medicines                    

           can not