Empire, The City, (Fraught) Bodies: Poems from Apogee Journal

Through ten print issues and online, Apogee Journal has been engaging with questions of identity and intersectionality, centering the voices of marginalized writers and artists. As we’re currently transitioning to an all-online platform, these poems—from both print and online within the past year—represent where we’ve been; at the same time, they are also all of this moment, looking at the horrors of global empire, imperialism, and the violence that various bodies (including POC, queer, and trans folk) face. But they can also be witchy, funny, and new—overflowing with automatons, Frankensteinian creations, and “hog proximity,” among many other things.

deep scratch

delight the light. delict, just outside
the city. salt scrape, another city
atrophied. whole lotta white people
talkin ‘bout state birds. afroapple
aristocracy. won’t catch me out here
in cider season — bring it to me if you
know what’s good.

endless tundra crunch. slide on me
nappy and docile — winter is bad for
my posture. seeds on ground. TV in
all the wrong places. side by side. i
can’t be any more. frantic, in general.
copacetic in nature: out of order,
some with justice. there’s more
sympathy when she sings it.

muscle lunge signed in flesh memory.
these things reoccur. hot process;
trying not to be precious about it.
soon come. it ago hit hard. slippery
pink sky stack. hog proximity don’t
mean shit.

I dream of walking through crowds of men and wake up relieved I’m still alive

In the sunlight
A clavicle
Is often mistaken
For a shelf
& men will rest
Their keys
& half packs
Of cigarettes
You are home
Be careful
Of being
They have
For it all

Aubade With Agent Orange

In his image, my master made me—Incendiary—Burning
          day after day—Only light by which the world could see—

Portmanteau of co-precipitated aluminum salts—Naphthenic acid—
          Palmitic acid—Everything I touched igniting—

Gone—Shortage of rubber—Losing war—Enemies
          camouflaged in plain sight—My master hewed me

from phosphorus and gasoline—Flew me miles from Massachusetts—
          His Harvard laboratory—388,000 tons of me—Cast

like a seine—Foxholes, forests, trenches, bunkers, rivers—
          Nothing was safe—Deoxidizing—Asphyxiation, radiation,

hyperthermia, unconsciousness, death—1,200 degrees Celsius—
          2,500 square yards—Sticking to human skin—

Licking skin from bone like a lollipop—Pop—8 June 1972—
          I didn’t see the little bird until I smashed her—Her scream

heard around the world—Nóng quá, nóng quá—I did what
          my master designed me to do—Her clothes seared off—

Her cousins crucified by shrapnel—Village gone—
          What my master called “an accident” wasn’t—It was

part of the plan—Containment policy—What he mistook
          for “Charlies” were kids kneeling in a temple—Their palms

pressed together in prayer—Nobody stopped to save them—
          I couldn’t—In his image, my master made me

to burn—Day after day—Failure of thought—Merciless
          machine—Senseless—I had no heart—My master gave me

no conscious, no voice—Not even the photographer paused—
          Not even the photographer, blood of her blood, opened

his canister of water to pour what was left on her face—Skin sliding off
          her face—Her face in the only light—Stop

Like my master, he clicked and clicked until he won the Pulitzer Prize—
          His eye behind the camera’s eye—Shooting—His shot

heard around the world—The front page of The New York Times
          A fixture—Audio tape of Richard Nixon holding the Times—

I’m wondering if that was fixed—Audio tape of Nick Ut—The horror
          of the Vietnam War recorded by me did not have to be fixed

I will never forget—Forget? I could never—Foxholes, forests, trenches,
          bunkers, rivers: I’m snared in them now—Inseparable—

Seine trapping the dead like market fish—Their red eyes looking at me—

Now I know what it’s like*

I knew now that I had to make another monster.
– Dr. Frankenstein

His interminable body harbored
hidden men—

bomb gallantries,
warfare cognates.

The crucial interior, numbed
to turn the curse of affect,

thought modification
with unending character

A vessel of spinning,
obliquely propelled man-fears,

and want-passengers,
sad monsters of all broke states.

His compulsive
nation of narcissistic guns.

Grief men, shooting

Wars of syndicated motion threading across
a slowly enormous realm.

That night, I ran everyone wrong.

I told the monster that I would make
a wife for him.

Even with centuries of variant

a hundred gender chances,
I dreamed too ugly.

My man components loyal
to a freaked system of father loops.

Body threw all.

The lust economy
carcassing mercilessly.

This need for

For national monster workshops
that shake graves.

When I made the first creature,
I didn’t know how it would turn out.

A knowledge machine of silent

The dead gazing back,
and I, their creature.

* Frankenpo (Frankenstein poem) of an essay “Hypermasculinity and Violence as a Social System” and chapter 10 of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (abridged)

Interval / The Second War: assemblages

Beginning to travel towards their anticipation, the stressors and implosions. In the valleys against the seas, the landscape glittered with mine dust but caution stripped us of both guilt and appreciation. We dream, assert ourselves. From where does this code come? Answer: a small enlightened slice of the Northern hemisphere. Nothing chose us except ourselves. Besides us, nothing chooses us still. There was always the silly, sterile fantasy of budding off into space, but we never could, needed too much our shores. Our presence has made the pressure unbearable. None of it very dissimilar. But the cruelty of privilege flings a weighted net of exoticism. We watch the certainty of replication and misapply it to our families. Without wondering, a bird will pluck at the down of its young until the scalp comes away, its head stiffened askew in the morning. Inside dominated space, a father bonobo brutalizes his son within an observation unit painted in creamy coats of wash. When it comes to our automatons, at times we make them parade.