Published on Academy of American Poets (

The King Is Dead, Long Live the King

Heaven is the certainty that you will be avenged
            I know    	     I know             the kingdom is not fair
but it’s what I have  a montage of red and a mitosis
 	     of knuckles   I’m not sure how you could expect me
to love anything       Ain’t no question  	
	                                       sadness is regal like that
                         golden and replaceable     once I wanted
a lineage of identical men   	    once a mouth soft and hot
as the quickest way that gold can hurt you     You see
       a pattern yet?               I practice the want of nothing	and fail
                                          I’ve been shown how ugly I can be
when I am invisible
   	                                  I don’t believe in yesterdays
The throat of loneliness?               Straddled with my knife
            I press my hands to my face  	      and the lament is a valley
the light sags through       What do you do when you have
 	           lost Everything?       Rewrite the history of Everything
I don’t like my smile  	      because someone told me I didn’t like it
    	   Now I am gorgeous in all the languages I mothered
                 Flex the antonym of Missing   	     I avenge myself
Stretch my hands     I orphan my grief for the living and it is beauty
                                         ain’t no question       	I monarch
the lonely     I my own everything now	  I miss my love and
            it is an American grief     I strike the smell from nostalgia
cut my memory to spite my country         What is the odor of nothing            
            but my dominion in want of excess   	  I grin and pillars of bone flower
into sawed-off crowns      say I flex the light and the light flexes
            heat shimmer    	   unfurling like a bicep 	 my lust a mirage
where the body is merely a congealing of the river  	I can feel it
      slowly drifting away from me 	The world I knew is gone
and getting more gone	   and my anthem populating my nose            
            with an abundance of salt I slip the shroud over the life I named
and forget I belonged to someone once       My soverign's face is a riot
of diamonds whining    	This will be a beautiful death   and I am free
and gorgeous and desperate to never have to miss anyone again
I rock the jeweled shroud        become the bride of my own sad light


Copyright © 2018 by Julian Randall. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 3, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“Kanye West was one of the people who first made me want to be a writer, and while I oppose nearly everything he is saying and doing these days, a first mirror is not abandoned so easily or completely. This began as an attempt to create a poem that flows at a rhythmic level in much the same way that the song ‘Gorgeous’ from his album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy does. To reckon with Kanye’s influence on me is to interrogate what I grieve and why I grieve it. While Dark Fantasy isn’t my favorite Kanye album, I have always at some level adored the way Kanye binds elegy to excess; I find it beautiful in a way that has always inspired me to stand up straighter. The poem’s title sprung to my mind while I was looking at an alternate cover for Dark Fantasy, which depicted a decapitated Kanye wearing a crown with a sword piercing him from the side. It seemed to beg the question, if the sovereign is beheaded who inherits his grief?”
—Julian Randall


Julian Randall

Julian Randall is the author of Refuse (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018), which won the 2017 Cave Canem Poetry Prize.

Date Published: 2018-09-03

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