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Jaki Shelton Green

Jaki Shelton Green is the author of eight collections, most recently I Want to Undie You (Jacar Press, 2017). In 2019, Green was named an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow. She currently teaches Documentary Poetry at Duke University Center for Documentary Studies and serves as the poet laureate of North Carolina.

By This Poet


a litany for the possessed

cultural whoremongers

appear on MTV

disguised dapper fresh

as third day bleached linens

from a sun not raised

on cotton indigo or gold


shaking singing ringing

baking dipping gliding

stomping sliding prancing

be-bopping dancing praising 

hip-hopping slipping slurping

belching fucking


grave pirates

sucking on the bones

of spirit prophets

malcolm ray miles

martin charlie

eldridge audre denmark

sojourner frederick countee

nat langston zora

louie richard nell

mahalia billie bessie

marcus gwendolyn

kwame toussaint mohammad


kente tie-dyed

refried batiked bleached

mudclothed dreaded blonded

matted twisted reddened

curled permed blackened greened



swords of quran bible torah


lies death deceit disgrace


juneteenth blood bones

sipping on holy water

that runs backwards

cultural whoremongers

holding hostage

prayers altars crosses

allah-hu akbar






addicts with poems

stuck between their teeth

join the night

pray for a vampirical moon

bootleg poems

sold beside remixed coltrane

rinsed out aretha sonnets


poets posing as undertakers

slip nip tuck drain

splinter irrigate protract

stitch catheterize graft

skin to word skin to history

skin to lies skin to truth

skin to battlefields in algiers

iraq vietnam korea somalia

johannesburg selma brooklyn

compton queens atlanta richmond

detroit afganistan


poets posing as seamstresses

sew faces sew teeth sew wombs

sew laughter sew tears sew regret

sew joy sew uprising sew anthems

sew constitutions sew treaties sew bombs

sew graves sew babies


brothas on the down low

sniffing for game

while sistas play

diva bohemian princess

sable goddess queen mother

high priestess of counterfeit

on a corner

that becomes continent

sahara amazon latin kurdish


the new immigrants

learn to walk


become invisible

eat fire

twist glass


flat joins round

night forgets that

day is his true sister

rivers forget to open to skies

freedom is exposed raw naked

unadorned unnamed


cultural whoremongers

dressed up as words

metaphors preludes


die alone

under skies that rant

retrace the scorn

theft murder

lynching of

a fallen muse

st. croix mornings

the beach at sunrise

raises its skirts

like a drunken pigeon


i raise my eyes awake

behind armored gates

somewhere deep in frederiksted

inside dark rooms

that shroud my skin

in the colors

of an evening gone bad


bluest black

rinsed indigo

uncensored red


dark nameless woman

washed ashore

skin seared

like an eclipse

out of season


warm water

nips under my


seeps into my skin


and the ocean whispers


stay close

stay close


i strut red feathers like a pagan god

open my house boldly

invite sun and waves to crush my wings

rape this serenity


bluest black

rinsed indigo

uncensored red


i surrender

to the messages in the sky

on the waves



i eat my own blood

reach quietly inside the water

gather all of me

alongside myself


and the ocean whispers


stay close

stay close


an earlier version

of sunrise

teases the curtains

teases the whiteness of sheets

that gather around my ankles

that remind my feet to breathe


an earlier version

of sunrise

sits cross-legged

holds thunder

captive under skirts


that deny

full moons

that deny

seasons  of fire

thy deny

births and names 


st croix mornings

gaze back at me

through the eyes

of my daughter

remind me

of other madnesses

other unnamed seeds


the madness of the sky

the madness of a woman

who refuses to


stay close

stay close