Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Selected Works, upfromsumdirt


So, To Speak

oceans of thought 
slosh as i am walking

so, to speak 
is to swallow rapids 
and not even noah 
wants these waters

i can not save you if you drown
i will only watch embedded safely 
on shore like an asperous stone-faced 
god chin-deep in the sands—a toothless 
guardian of old with striated songs

a jellyfish village 
in my head and 
i awaken violently

like a captive in various stages 
of escape staked as phantasmagoric 
bait near the volcanic rim—i dare 
not lay my head or close my eyes

this fear
of dreams 
with nascent 
to the newly 

The Ode of Carbon-Copy Anubis

the werewolf with 
the rose tattoo hides
up the holler 
in her mouth—incisors 
down to the bone—my hand,
holding a silver sliver
by its onyx hilt…

she is covered in honey 
(canines guiding calluses)
writing poems of song & roses
jabbing knife’s point 
into Olodumare’s 
inkblack underbelly:

a mobius strip 
of wristblood & 
underbelly blood

all the while, i sit at her side
shooing away bees & howling 
at the moon, my body 
a distant broken planet.

statue of black poet replaces statue of white hero from a not-so-distant race war but neither monument ever held the pigeons at bay and never did the pigeons give a fuck: merry-go-round as political theater


i am cast in marble in this poem
twenty feet fall standing napoleon-style 
atop a triumph, a thruxton to be correct, 
i am a cowboy in the boat of ra” tatted 
on my back—unseen, for i wear a billowing 
dress shirt and i do not have on a backwards 
ball cap in this statue. 
in this statue i am black in white marble 
marbled lightly with blue—like good cheese 
tho i am not as salty; head tossed back 
in laughter with neither head nor laugh 
attached to a body for the neck is missing 
—surreal as it is serene; meanwhile, 
in open secret the shoulder-sitting pigeons, 
always in a state of shitting, remain vigilant, 
insider trading as they go about 
in cooing communication on where to find
the best location for popcorn & breadcrumbs 
with the least amount of competition

you see, this black poem is not about race.

this is about american heritage (except 
for the british motorcycle mentioned above, 
culturally balanced at the statue’s base 
by 3 distinct emojis that change daily, but still): 

a riveting contemporary likeness


why no neck?” questions the whitest 
of critics for whom unblemished marble 
was made artismal, as sacrosanc as a birthright; 
if this, as you say, is about culture then why no place 
below the headless head to hold a proper lynch? 
your black poems are all a lie. please, leave us.


you see, this cord of rope, from the very start,
is a white poem about resistance & representation.


the unbeknownst rhythms 
from reanimated tongues
are often hashtagged 
as “the droning on of the heavyhanded” 
within some outdated owner’s manual

the library of stitches in our chest 
deemed an inconsequence 
because our wounds—to some—were 
not so recent and were simply canonized 
as the droning on of mules—or in cozier 
post-production: the goddamn melodies 
of niggardly maladroits decomposing

but that secret is told slant

for when the make of any popular model 
is discountinued, it’s utterly useless (as is well-known)
to update an outdated owner’s manual.

it’s best, by then,
to burn the gravures
and begin anew.

Abolition Is A Form Of Lycanthropy

i stumble into a poem i want to write where a child 
is eating a wolf / i’m concerned for the child, if only 
for a second, so i say “say child, just how did you 
come to, uhh, be eating this wolf?” of course, 
the wolf of is dead with its wide, weary eyes

say child, this wolf didn’t just, uhh, roll up & deliver 
itself fully plated, so what work of delivery app is this?

the child (blood on his or her hands, blood dripping from
his or her lips, bites through a bloodied, pelted paunch)
grunts and crouches closer, guarding her or his conquest
the child, snarled in sanguined symmetry, growls at me

hands up i back away

in the periphery of this poem, the wolf-devouring 
eyes of forest urchin sparkle in the surrounding dark, 
dozens upon dozens—tiny gems of slight inquiry reflect 
my impending genocide… then a child in the distance 
child-howls like a half-eaten wolf… branches crack 
in the not-so-distant dark…unless it’s my dry brittle bones 
snapping like branches, every unpruned bough of this 
poem a newly minted metaphor for bone marrow
—my application for a national prize complete

feet up, the dead wolf’s paws begin to cycle
drawing circles in the air at a quickening pace, 
a dead end dreaming of escape… longing for 
the run; the hunt; to feed itself the hand it bites…

blood-streaked child, i do not have the time for this;
goddammit, i don’t even recall coming to these woods!

with blood in his or his teeth, she, the snarl-bodied child 
is smiling; leader of the fucking pack but who’s behind it:
capitalistic abolitonists? representational patriarchy? elevator 
pitch for under-funded sci-fi? neoliberal art journals financed 
by conservatives? this modern avant-gardism just isn’t for me: 
merwin and dickinson are the child; i, the half-eaten wolf.

i awoke this morning hungry for figs
and a simple draught of honey for my tea.

the shoes of the fisherman’s wife might be some jive ass slippers but her nightgown is a fishnet

my fingers drop anchor drop into the sea of you
each knuckle joint below your turbulent crest / each knuckle
a kraken, an at-earth’s-end dragon, rattling the bones of atlantis
sunken in songs soft and seismic

each finger an anchor and i am moored to how your flotsum foams
four of your twice-four tentacles thrashing  the octopus that 
at last  discovers
in undulation  flight  
each wave full of salt and thunder and your own two lungs 
thrown as wide as single sail to the wind  mending the nets.

upfromsumdirt is the author of four chapbooks and the full-length collection, Deifying A Total Darkness (Harry Tankoos Books, 2020) available through upfromsumdirt. He is a 2010 winner of Kentucky’s Al Smith Award for Art (as Ronald Davis), whose visual work has graced the covers of The African American Review, Tidal Basin Review, Mythium Literary Journal, and various book covers for a variety of published authors. You can view his portfolio at, and if so moved you can find him across the spectrum of social media sites.

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