Published on Academy of American Poets (

Violence, I know you

so well it’s like you’re my real
lover, the reason I can’t stay
attached to anyone, making a heaven
out of beginning again & you
knock at my voice
as if I could speak you back in
as mine & I had time enough to learn
the secret of cruelty
as if that made it lose
its power over me, its antics
failing notice,

but it lives in us all like a question
we can’t answer but keep trying
because it feels good to & the secret
is it can’t last, 
& that is when it hurts—
who can’t bear to lose &
stitch to any nothing
that acts like a landing place but turns
out to be a fissure, we pretend
voices tell us it’s music
& familiar or alien
we listen, it’s only a dance


Copyright © 2017 by Khadijah Queen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 8, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“‘Violence, I know you’ is written after Alice Notley’s book In the Pines. It is part of a new series I’m working on, where the speaker is a ghost—an ancestor navigating the legacy of her secrets while communicating the importance of voice, intuition, and self-knowledge to her descendants.”
—Khadijah Queen


Khadijah Queen

Khadijah Queen is the author of six books including Anodyne (Tin House Books, 2020), I’m So Fine: A List of Famous Men & What I Had On  (YesYes Books, 2017), and Fearful Beloved (Argos Books, 2015).

Date Published: 2017-03-08

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