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TWO POEMS by Justin Phillip Reed


as the reedy sonata of squelch and blade-spun air cinched its coda like a drawstring sack around us I did not dodge behind

the broken pediments monolithing men who always meant to unbuckle burdens here then look away into some certain

softer land than this how precisely as a sting had thingness warped me into horror the very wrong span of my lifetime

the rigor sitting below my collarbones my being not the “great work” but the body at the end of which it could find itself great

strange to them a gaze fatal and not theirs stranger still to be beheld and collectible and them what they think I used to be

was if in possession of eyes as well as agency preposterous

I didn’t move I knew because he must he would tell them

I had murder-thirst hid needles on my spine my hips a thrift

of diamonds he could have it that way but here was the stillest

minute slipped between me and the myth of myself mirrored

in the shield the secant angles of his skull the wide eye within it

the iris’s loose grip on the pit that held my face which was stunning coal-hard in all that it had borne a monstrous feat

of weathering this world that it would not be changed by me had been for the longest the tyranny of its terrain but look

at my garden and the black field blown alive around me the hair-raised woodlands the hills at their backs rough shore

beyond that somehow in earshot the stone churn overturned the green sea cradled in the valley I became a fault in him

no stitch of briefer things ever had been so undone



JUSTIN PHILLIP REED is the author of A History of Flamboyance (YesYes Books, 2016). His first full-length collection of poetry, Indecency, is forthcoming from Coffee House Press in 2018. His work is forthcoming in African American Review, Black Warrior Review, and Hayden’s Ferry Review. He lives in Saint Louis and coordinates public programming for the Pulitzer Arts Foundation.


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