Published on Academy of American Poets (

American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin [But there never was a black male hysteria]

But there never was a black male hysteria
Breaking & entering wearing glee & sadness
And the light grazing my teeth with my lighter
To the night with the flame like a blade cutting
Me slack along the corridors with doors of offices
Orifices vomiting tears & fire with my two tongues
Loose & shooing under a high-top of language
In a layer of mischief so traumatized trauma
Delighted me beneath the tremendous
Stupendous horrendous undiscovered stars
Burning where I didn’t know how to live
My friends were all the wounded people
The black girls who held their own hands
Even the white boys who grew into assassins 


Copyright © 2017 by Terrance Hayes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 15, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“Prime thanks to poet Anthony Butts who, many years ago, told me he was writing a book called Male Hysteria. Unforgettable title. Maybe I’m not remembering it correctly. This sonnet is one lanky sentence and several clanging fragments. It’s both dream and memory; ode to high-tops, criminal elegy, testimony, fantasy. It’s crystal clear to me and totally hazy.”
Terrance Hayes


Terrance Hayes

The 2010 winner of the National Book Award in poetry, Terrance Hayes is the author of five poetry collections. He currently serves on the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets.

Date Published: 2017-11-15

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