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Ishion Hutchinson

Ishion Hutchinson was born in Port Antonio, Jamaica. He received a BA from the University of the West Indies, an MFA from New York University, and, in 2012, a PhD from the University of Utah. Hutchinson is the author of House of Lords and Commons (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016), winner of the 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award, and Far District (Peepal Tree Press, 2010), winner of the 2011 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award. The recipient of a Whiting Award, he teaches at Cornell University and lives in Ithaca, New York.

By This Poet

4

From the Peninsula

The old trees shake out medals at midday
to the ship paused for a meteor’s blunting
glimpse in the windy yellow of the water,

partway to inventing another world.
Through the window’s tiger slats,
the bakery pumps smoke, years between

her irretrievable shawl, which crimsons
what I see, watching further and further,
until canisters shatter into nitrate stars,

late at night, saluting an unforgiving song.
I tilt down on her iron bed and cluster
haunted basil, the scent rifts morning open

to argon of cobwebs, the dim cargo, the bent
hills, the black gold, her hands, clasped
shut her children, long gone, under the sea.
 

Rocksteady

for Colin Channer

For these cramped fragments of Thomas,
           stir: ‘I had never loved England,’ and stir:
           ‘I had loved it foolishly,’ stir, transmuted:
           ‘like a slave, not having realized it was not mine.’

Ah, there, saint, captive, the sentinel is at the door,
            beating upon the bulwark of its silence.
            I, a late remnant in that still, unceasing circuit
            scaling down the dock, I am a mystery among faces, know

injustice and illusion, and laughter
           that is silver lashing, lashing the hummingbird
           in the breeze. I know something drastic is
           waiting release, some instrument to measure,

in one stroke, paradise, and when it strikes again,
           emptiness, the city gripped with emptiness.

It is happening, right here, as you see, in syntax;
          my circadian fortress is pitching me. Rocksteady. 

And because our enmity is strong and our love
          is strong, they bring us together, divided:
          fire into fire: first, sea; and of sea, cane;
          the lasting enmity, faithless and haunting.

The mass and strength of our love, the blades
          of our imagined empathy, our compassion,
          crossed from an abridged womb, the sea;

wind lifts the balance sheets of the dead, unbalanced;
          names are fluttering against the divided sun.
          I look up on what’s mine and not, nettled
          first in literature, now drained to a grey core:

‘the worlds whole sap is sunke,’ utterly dry.
          Progress at rest, resting of a vacant peace,
          after four centuries, laden with perish

and gain. Everywhere touched by the rain,
          ending, a ‘work that’s finished to our hands.’ Rocksteady.
 

Roof Nightclub

First, above all, I live forever. And
thereafter redecorate paradise
in the majesty of the Roof Nightclub,
DJ Lucifer, at predawn hours
terrifies the floorboards to give way to
Apollyon’s abyss, reflecting scarred light
on the wall. The mirror alive with tremors.
 
Herons bring news of consolation.
I rebuke them for my brilliance
and enrich uranium in my cove
across Navy Island. The hospital
vanishes in the fog, so I arrange rain
to restore magenta ginger lilies
where my mother walked to born me.
Malignant fireflies at Christmas;
sorrel then sorrow, such is Kingston, there
funky carols seethe asphalt with famine.
 
Forever ends. Never a moment holds
‘still-here,’ when sand murmurs through my fingers.
I number and chant down stars, ellipsoidal
as fire ants with, “I think I will be
killed once I die!” and again return
the Super Ape, to conquer the Roof Club,
rip off Apollyon’s hell fence; skin him; dance
thundering subatomic dub music,
until my rage yields settled coral.
A million embers of eyes split from coals
to see me loom out the shadows’ sunray
by the turntable wearing a splash crown.