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. 



<Jonah Mixon-Webster ** Joseph O. Legaspi>




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