DESTINY BIRDSONG | POETRY

runner-up for the 2018 Poetry Prize judged by Tommy Pico

i too sing america

but mostly //when it’s convenient
when i’m abroad //i fucking love

the constitution //the gall
of the forefathers

still tittering in their //received
pronunciation //sauced up

since whiskey was more
sanitary than water //

& when the woman runs
out of her shoppe on cowley—

where i’m fingering scarves
on the sidewalk— i aim

my accent at her & pull
the trigger //no one

ever says //nigger //but we
lock eyes & she know

i know //
what she mean

i learned to count //pound
& pence //after i

kept getting
incorrect //change //

who steals the most?
who steals //what is most

valuable? //i palm
two bottles //of nail lacquer

wander upstairs
for the cookies

& shit //i’m always
hungry //the portions are

always //too small
i need

more dressing //i hear
music coming

from a rucksack //& i dance
in the crosswalk //

at the opposite end
a brown man tells me

my backpack has hiked up
my skirt //i wink & say

soon you won’t //give a fuck//
about my body //that’s

assimilation //he smiles
says //carefully //have a

nice day //elsewhere//
i’m paying extra

for the excursion
i want //to swim

with the pigs //i need
to touch //something else

that can be offered //for
a small fee

//or slaughtered //
i’m high on hash

browns & all-black
service //i could be dead

in seattle // in baltimore //
nebraska //whachu want

from me? //whachu
got that won’t get

me killed?
i ask this

of every //land
i’ve planted //my feet

on //& loved //
like the forefathers //it tables

the difficult questions //
ocean water slicks

my thighs
i submerge //watch schools

of zebrafish graze
my sister’s palms //

sand-softened
like the leather handbag //

she bought in atlanta //
her bracelet //tapping the emblem

like //a prisoner making
music //to the knock

of waves in the hull //
of the women

being dragged upstairs//
the ancestors

never had it so good //maybe
the children //will //

another man //on the beach
grates his stubble //with

a bleached towel
waves a coconut //& says

he can make it strong as
i like //i am carnivorous

& cannibal//
i tip my room key //

& a smile //when i leave
i put all my cards //

in their holsters
i go

like darren //
like jeronimo //no

indictments //
& i declare

nothing.

Destiny Birdsong is a poet, fiction writer, and essayist whose poems have either appeared or are forthcoming in African American Review, The Adroit Journal, Muzzle, Indiana Review, Bettering American Poetry Volume II, The BreakBeat Poets Volume 2: Black Girl Magic, Split This Rock’s Poem of the Week, and elsewhere. Her critical work recently appeared in African American Review and The Cambridge Companion to Transnational American Literature. Destiny has won the Academy of American Poets Prize, Naugatuck River Review’s 2016 Poetry Contest, and Meridian’s 2017 “Borders” Contest in Poetry. She has received fellowships from Cave Canem, Callaloo, Jack Jones Literary Arts, The MacDowell Colony, Pink Door, and The Ragdale Foundation. She earned both her MFA and PhD from Vanderbilt University, where she currently works as a research coordinator. Read more of her work at destinybirdsong.com.

2018-07-30T12:37:39+00:00

FOLLOW US, BB <3

close-link