Hull

With its queerness and excavation of history, Xandria Phillips’ HULL lives somewhere between Danez Smith's Don't Call Us Dead and Rachel McKibbens's Blud; the result is bodily, razor-sharp, and wholly unforgettable. I didn't know how badly I needed these poems until they were unfurling in my hands, devastating and brilliant. - CARMEN MARIA MACHADO

Poem Where I Refuse to Talk About

I’m eight wearing a frumpy
bunched-up dress with stockings
I put runs in that same morning
while rushing to pull them up
after peeing and flattening
my midweek temple frizz
the cool girls in their jeans
and angel|devil Ts are having
a laugh at my existence
they are white and built like
miniature bird-chested women
on asphalt my low heels
clacking like principal feet
I want the sweat of boyhood
its ease and virtue on my neck
I want my nature known
because I am the softest
I can ever be in this moment
when I don’t rough my mutt
hands on their throats
for making terrible light of
the second-hand the sub
-human my survival
instead I talk to grass
but a sapling myself
I am made everyday like a bed
like a person makes another
and nothing ever asks to be made

Want Could Kill Me

I know this

from looking

                                    into store fronts

                                    taste buds voguing

alight from the way

treasure glows

                                    when I imagine

                                    pressing its opulence

into your hand

I want to buy you

                                     a cobalt velvet couch

                                     all your haters' teeth

strung up like pearls

a cannabis vineyard

                                     and plane tickets

                                     to every island

on earth

but my pockets

                                    are filled with

                                    lint and love alone
touch these inanimate gods

to my eyelids

                                   when you kiss me

                                    linen leather

gator skin silk

satin lace onyx

                                    marble gold ferns

                                    leopard crystal

sandalwood mink

pearl stiletto

                                    matte nails and plush

                                    lips glossed
in my 90s baby saliva

pour the glitter

                                    over my bare skin

                                    I want a lavish life

us in the crook

of a hammock

                                    incensed by romance

                                    the bowerbird will

forgo rest and meals

so he may prim

                                    and anticipate amenity

                                    for his singing lover

call me a gaunt bird

a keeper of altars

                                   shrines to the tactile

                                   how they shine for you

fold your wings

around my shoulders

                                   promise me that

                                   should I drown

in want-made waste

the dress I sink in

                                  will be exquisite

                                                                      - for Dominique

Michelle Obama and I Self-Medicate

Anxiety has clawed a red highway up my esophagus, and for this Michelle suggests chamomile. She knows where these red routes can lead. My palms feel hotter than the inside of my mouth. There are no handles or surfaces to relieve us. I want to drop this comfort, but Michelle is telling me about how He doesn’t close his eyes anymore when they make love, how no one closes their eyes around her anymore, so I ask her if she’d like me to close my eyes. My hands are rocking the cup between blistering fingers and she says yes, so I do. I feel or I imagine The First Lady’s fingers everywhere, or perhaps it is her breath. The decade it takes for the oil spill in my sink to neutralize, the generations of flowers beheaded for blooming out of season, the moons and moons of steadfast self-starvation are a few of the things flaming my gullet. Michelle tells me she can’t remember the last time she touched someone who didn’t need to make sure she was there. Do you want to leave? I ask. I want you to drink your tea, she tells me, feeling the way my body hums like a coffee bean. I lift the chamomile to my mouth and taste without seeing. My tongue becomes a burning house. I know what I am feeling is her chest rising and falling against my back. She smells how I expect a ripe cotton field must.

Nativity

in the dream where I run without breasts I am motivated by flight, I haven’t yet begun to unweld the framework, invent new trauma, whip the stitch arching each bosom as victuals dangled, withheld. when I hemorrhage against design it ain’t incognito. the neighbors walk their dogs past me. that’s me smoking in the alley, letting roses from my wrists. petal to puddle, a misgendering of matter. these hooves unhinge themselves as tiny meteors to cudgel dusk. I redress the splintering woodwork notched to my likeness, venial beneath the pomme and lilac cornucopic delight. to partake in a gender, to fashion one’s self a living process of it, casting a net of postures, adornment objects, and grooming techniques into a future tense. where have I gone, and who have I built to take my place? unsuccessful at the tossing of it, I throw rocks ahead of me and predict where they will land. by virtue of touch, I am every man I manufacture my difference from. the man slipping in the mirror’s moonshine enters and leaves me between my double-take, and glare into my reflection for its unregistered recognition. every night the countryside plays against my eyelids. a recurring taunt against my current location, the finale, currents of corn lapping the sun against my arms pumping with youth. the site of my making.

Ode to a Vibrator Left on All Night

                            In her absence, my hunger for hum

and throttle took me by sweltering longitude.

For the right to claim shotgun I drove
a stick through the streets of Osu

while a man steered, yielding to clutch,

                           pressing us further into night.

                           I know well the sound, engine’s
purring plea for shift, and my hand the abundance

of submission. I withheld nothing. I want when
I want, and then I wish for corrosion.

Though I cannot lavish praise on stamina

                          alone, I must acknowledge a femme

                          fortitude. Last night, I tell myself,

a misstep at battery’s expense

so as to never consider the sentience
of a pleasure machine.

How her trembling must have lullabied

                         my drunk tongue the intricacies

                         of sexual decorum even in sleep,

how she may have throbbed

all night beside me, anticipating her
own reciprocal and tender invasion.