But for a moment, to drive to the soul
food spot on Congress ave. where utensils,
large & made for the hands of no one living among
us, hang on the walls & where the woman behind

the counter yells out my order before my second
foot makes it in the door & where her laugh is like
my sister’s or where her laugh is like my mother’s or
where her laugh is like my grandmother’s or where her laugh

is like the laugh of a black woman who knows where the devil
is hiding & knows how to shake him loose & in the soul food
spot there are no devils but there is plenty sin & where you look
at the sweet tea & your dentist gets a chill from miles away &

where, if the gossip is good enough, the smoke from the kitchen
puffs into black halos & someone ain’t getting the catfish they
ordered & where all is forgiven & where forgiveness is always
dressed in something fried or sweet & where, around a circle

of spent plates, men with their full bellies & thin gold chains slap
cards on a wooden table & where those men ignore the yelling
& the marching on the television & where I imagine those men
have seen this movie before & know its ending & yet are still

here to watch it again & where the plates rattle when one of the men shows
his hand & says his partner ain’t shit & where I laugh because these men
could be my father & around the right table, I am everyone’s child &
where the stereo is from the 90s & so is everything that crawls out of it

& where Lauryn sings how you gon’ win if you ain’t right within & I am
oh, I am right within for this small and shrinking moment. I am right
within for this newborn praise, because the rain stopped & the clouds
gave way earlier & yes, the darkness arrives sooner now & yes,

the streets were still slick, but on this day, the children were in
them, dodging the streetlights on their small bikes & the girls
leapt & whipped their long ponytails through the open mouths
of two jump ropes & this is the only country they know & it is nothing

to get free when your only country is freedom & so I say, then:
make a border around any place you are loved & call it yours.
make a border around those who hold you up & build what
you must to keep the devils out. I say, then: I know, I know

the burning cannot be unseen & on this night I claimed a new
& fleeting empire, governed by soul food & loud black children &
no one telling them to be quiet. governed by men who lose
card games. governed by men who know they ain’t shit & the women

who know it better but have loved them for too long to stop
now. oh country, my new and brief country. how I walk from you
full & into the wreckage. how I wish you everywhere now.
how I try to taste you in the air instead of blood.
is a good run, at least according to my mother,
which has seemed, all my life, like cruelty —

when I had a fever, for example, or a heart,
shipwrecked & taking on the flood. But now,

of course, this is what I tell my friend whose eye
has been twitching since last Tuesday, what I

tell my student who can’t seem to focus
her arguments, who believes, still,

that it’s possible to save the world
in 10-12 pages, double-spaced & without irony

I’m asking Have you tried going for a run?
You know, to clear your head? this mother-voice

drowning out what I once thought
to be my own. I’ll admit that when that man

became the president, before terrified I felt
relief — finally, here was the bald face

of the country & now everyone had to look
at it. Everyone had to see what my loves

for their lives, could not unsee. Cruelty
after all is made of distance —

sign here & the world ends
somewhere else. The world. The literal

world. I hold my face close to the blue
light of the screen until my head aches.

Until I’m sick & like a child I just want
someone to touch me with cool hands

& say yes, you’re right, something is wrong
stay here in bed until the pain stops & Oh

mother, remember the night
when, convinced that you were dying,

you raced to the hospital clutching
your heart & by the time you arrived

you were fine. You were sharp
as a blade. Five miles in & I can’t stop

thinking about that video. There’s a man
with his arms raised

in surrender. He was driving
his car. His own car & they’re charging him

bellowing like bulls I didn’t shoot you, motherfucker,
you should feel lucky for that. Yes. Ok.
I ate my way through the debates, the conventions,
that interminable election night. I ate through my classes

in the days after, trying to console my students. While you
appointed your cabinet of brutes, I was eating. I’ve eaten

through the terrified phone calls, the sad texts. I ate
while my friends marched in the streets and I was too afraid

to join them, thinking my body might take up an unforgiveable
amount of space. A conservative commentator said that

“without fat girls, there would be no protests” against you.
That “marching around and waving signs” was some exercise,

but they also “needed Atkins.” The irony was most painful
as I watched the march on TV from my couch; radiant masses

moving through the city. I chanted along as if I were there. I ate.
Demagogue, our bodies cannot bear you. You get heavier

and heavier. I mine myself for strength until I can stand up
from beneath you. Shed you. Can I diet you away? Can I

purge us of you? You’ve attached yourself to so many
of my vital organs, coating them until they are unrecognizable

opaque accumulations of fat. My heart: my mother,
an immigrant, afraid to not carry her passport at all times,

in case the wrong person hears her accent and deports her.
My lungs: my friends, terrified their families will be forced apart,

their children taken away. My stomach: my students, who had
swastikas drawn on their doors days after you were elected.

All of them asphyxiated by you. I have had to pretend
hope when I have none in order to keep them alive.

Do you understand me? I cannot stop eating. Everything
you touch turns to fat. It becomes difficult to take a breath.
To make I earn they say

Give teeth give bone out

See how they bested

this whole ugly land mass

They civiled an missionaried

taught I to be horse plow

They come from nothing

rescue nothing that were

They indebted this whole

ugly land mass to theirs

To your own nothing say

Come body be up come money come

They are no magic no special

just god-given and work they say

Where did your tongue go and

How come you don't have any

thing and don't shrug at that

Don't point to the land

Don't think how you plucked

the whole crop from this ugly

land mass and are still with nothing

Sell your mama they tell your bed or

Sell whole your house

for a better house To make

I earn burn eyes out

No to make I earn

pull nothing towards upwards

they say This way no harder no upper

like you've got something

down there to pull
you may be the last of all creatures
to enter this kingdom

but my shape is prehistoric, my shape
lacks all creation, I am a church

to no god & you are a slaughterhouse
& I will stun you & hang you feet-up

I will pinch out your mouth
like a candle-flame while mine

wicks the horizon, wipes
every body off its bones. I am

waist-deep in ghosts, take a
headcount. Call me a creature to bridle

or bury. Tell me to knock
a door into my mother’s body

& crawl back in, to kiss you
a crater the size of my birth

country, but don’t ever
mistake absence for loss

I am not lost. My name
in your mouth is still

mine. Say stolen & the land
looses like a molar & grinds

you into its shape, say stolen & your
body collapses like a dying star, mass

cannibalizing its own gravity, have you
ever seen your own mouth’s mass

grave? Morning is when
I rip my shadow a birth-hole

for the sun to blur through, this
morning my shadow abstained

from flesh, walked away still
clipped into my skin, bought a

business-casual wardrobe, dressed
out of my mother’s accent & now

you mistake her for me, grease
-flicker between your teeth & her

shadow-body clung to your tongue
like an oil spill, I want to feed you

every disaster is man-made, according
to the movies. I thank Hollywood for movies

made with a mask of my face, movies
where I click my lips, keep the beat of

bullets tunneling light through
my father’s lungs, girls onscreen

pray for eyes so blue
they can sea every man &

drown him, are you so afraid of my eyes
because they are lightless, slits

that steal every dark for themselves,
that condense all light into knives?

I reverse-engineered your body
& found nothing but a burnt

-down fuse. Don’t pretend
you didn’t build this country’s

bombs the way you built
yourself in your mother’s

body. In my mother’s country,
all guavas grow grenade pins

& all women learn that bleeding
is honest work. I have always known

the fact of you, a violence. The whole
of your skin, a geology of ghosts. Tell me

to go back to where I come from
& I will show you my mouth, its feast

of ashes. I will show you a wound
is only as deep as its entry:

you, the last creature to enter
this kingdom, come to steal

the site of your own slaughter.
these are my people & I find
them on the street & shadow
through any wild all wild
my people my people
a dance of strangers in my blood
the old woman’s sari dissolving to wind
bindi a new moon on her forehead
I claim her my kin & sew
the star of her to my breast
the toddler dangling from stroller
hair a fountain of dandelion seed
at the bakery I claim them too
the sikh uncle at the airport
who apologizes for the pat
down the muslim man who abandons
his car at the traffic light drops
to his knees at the call of the azan
& the muslim man who sips
good whiskey at the start of maghrib
the lone khala at the park
pairing her kurta with crocs
my people my people I can’t be lost
when I see you my compass
is brown & gold & blood
my compass a muslim teenager
snapback & high-tops gracing
the subway platform
mashallah I claim them all
my country is made
in my people’s image
if they come for you they
come for me too in the dead
of winter a flock of
aunties step out on the sand
their dupattas turn to ocean
a colony of uncles grind their palms
& a thousand jasmines bell the air
my people I follow you like constellations
we hear the glass smashing the street
& the nights opening their dark
our names this country’s wood
for the fire my people my people
the long years we’ve survived the long
years yet to come I see you map
my sky the light your lantern long
ahead & I follow I follow
It’s night one of Aquarius season
& the road is bleached with moon
& spit. I'm looking at my bangs
crusted like a helmet to my face.
I’m looking to kill the president
of the USA—if not the tower, the
hallway, if not his ghost, his hands.
A boy told me once he thought all
girltears were black cause he only
saw his sister cry with mascara on,
that same eye leaking & leaking.
I told him god is a 12 year old girl
leaking all her hidden bitter tears
on a kitchen table.

When I was 12 a nice white lady
mistook me for her adopted
daughter every day after school.
She thought I looked just like her
from the back but I know what
I look like: a lotus flower with a
sideways cunt, lying facedown on
my bedroom floor remembering
how bright animal eyes shine when
they are reflected in car eyes. My
mom doesn’t believe in abortions
so she mailed me to Shanghai with
a suitcase filled with breastmilk
as soon as I was born. There are no
stars in the womb but the stars in
Amerika glimmer like cruel babies
in the rain.

Last night I dreamt of a wet block
of tofu falling down an escalator,
step by step, into a shallow eternity.
I know it meant nothing but it went
on all night long. At the end of this
escalator I witnessed god drowning
at a kitchen table. She wants to know
if Amerika is as holy as the textbooks
say & I tell her: Amerika is
a swimming pool filled with spit,
a pile of puke on the nativity scene,
a limp dick on Snapchat,
an artificial plant dying under
a depression lamp & I
have been instructed to build
a synthetic ontology in all
the holy spaces left behind.
When confetti cannons shoot dust instead
Our eyes tear up in shock and we run
To beds and bars and the interwebs
Rubbing our socked feet against the carpet

We’re in shock our eyes tear up and we run
To highways, state capitols, and hotels
Rubbing our socked feet against the carpet
We find a way to calm the small children

On highways, supermarkets, and our house
They draw pictures of Trump then rip them up
We find a way to calm the small children
Balance the need for unrest and safety

They draw pictures of Trump then rip them up
We hold hands as a current shoots through us
Echoing the need: unrest and safety
When confetti cannons shoot dust instead
We couldn’t come up with another name for what this day is. Let’s fold the letters back & forth to spell: They Continue Killing Us. Someone at the governor’s hotel is fucking someone against a marble bathroom counter while thinking about the next version of us they want to get rid of. I’m conflicted by the sight of my friend wearing a safety pin. I want to reach across the room. How are you? My brain feels like a mashed-up runway of links shared on social media while I sit in a room filled with books & friends & their dogs & my head is empty except for a single thought: I’m not the only one who feels this way. On the bus I pay attention to the way people use their phones. No one clicks on anything with a picture & a headline. It’s enough. There’s a wire hanger between my shoulder blades barely holding together a small pain, reminding me I’ve been complacent & complicit. A bell stretches out inside me, tolling my own deafness. My mother crossed an ocean with 135 other people hiding in a fishing boat without water for days. When was the last time you thought about your own mother crawling. My father hid in his sister’s basement for three years because he didn’t want to fight. He didn’t believe the jungle was for killing. So he became an undocumented citizen in the country he was born.

* Jenny Holzer
for your safety if
you see something
say a package a
purse say something
that should not be
there unattended say
something laughing
as they say something
you don’t understand
say something
scribbling something
you don’t understand
say something you
don’t understand say
something that
should not be
something for your
safety say something
ceasing to be
something for your
safety if you see
something that
should not be
stop complain
in arkansas I the only chinese in whole school
except one girl she call esther chew esther
chew dont speak even chinese


in china chicken that look like donald trump
i will send you link
actually may be pheasant not chicken
in china no word between pheasant and chicken


your uncle illegal and have miss demeanor
he drive to fast he drink to much
pls stay away from him and microwaves
give you radiation and may die


meimei I see on the news everyday
minorities everywhere are more harassment
everywhere attached
sorry attacked,not attached


hello meimei I have the dream
last night all the family ghost
went to see movie and laugh
at all the death scene


!! some girls in china are becoming ghost
pls check,go to local war exhibit
if it feel like it belong in your body you
maybe ghost


you know how america zoo have baby panda
did you know all baby panda are china property
all panda baby turn 4 must go home
Pls call me.
a groundwind wishes away
the dandelion

and quarters the citrus

like wind
you come panting and aimless

bringing your own lumber
to warp and termite yourself

when you touch my face
you believe it is perfectable

you say
this is perfectable

when you move
you move like a carousel of flames

see: a row of broken chairs
in the pinerot

see: a petal
pressed between needle and skin

if the whole body were an eye
where would the hearing be

when I dream I dream like an ox
broken plow after broken plow

patience is a virtue
and virtue is easy

I only need to fear
the parts of you I can see
is to turn twenty-four with an ass that refuses
to fit squarely into a string bikini. to miss
america is to miss the point
of each perky, each taut muscle
rippling its way across a wheat field. or to miss
the wheat entirely. it is almost an art: paring

a strawberry into symmetrical slices
for a midnight snack in front of the late night
show. amazing how static can fill
the mind, the gut. o america, i, too, have a stash
of sashes, folded up & boxed, their ribbons too thin
now for my frame. you don’t have

to tell me: this body is nothing
like yours—spindly tower
that knows its saunter, knows its shake. you strut
down a lit aisle & miss the brush of grass
against your knees. god, you’re as smooth
as they make ‘em—teeth vaselined

like a slip’n slide, you are oil & bronze
& glow. miss america, i, too, know
about thigh gaps. i know what goes missing,
the space between girl and grown.
you miss dining room tables, fruit
of your labor, warmth in your belly, warmth

in your home. i am with you: dried flowers
in my hand, the metallic sky
dulling your tiara. look at this mud
where a meadow used to be.
“Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.”
—Donald Trump

America I was driving when I heard you
Had died I swerved into a ditch and wept
In the dream I dreamed unconscious in the ditch

America     I dreamed you climbed from the ditch
You must believe your body is and any
Body and stood beside the ditch for eight years

Thinking     except you didn’t stand you right
Away lay down on your pale belly
And tried to claw your way back to the ditch

You right away began to wail     and weep
And gnash your teeth     my tears met yours in the ditch
America     they carry me downstream

A slave on the run from you      an Egyptian queen
Even in my dreams I’m in your dreams
i fed your body to the fish
traded it at lunch for milk

i know where they buried you
cause it’s my mouth

they tell me bootstraps
& i spit up a little leather

they tell me Christ
but you don’t have black friends

during the anthem
i hum Niggas in Paris

i cha cha slide over the flag
C-walk on occasion

i put a spell on you
it called for 3/5s of my blood

apple pie, red
bones & a full moon

but instead i did it
in the daylight, wanting you

to see me ending you
stupid stupid me

i know better than to fuck
with a recipe

i don’t make chicken
when I don’t have eggs

look at what i did: on the TV
the man from TV

is gonna be president
he has no words

& hair beyond simile
you’re dead, America

& where you died
grew something worse –

crop white as the smile
of a man with his country on his side

a gun on his other side


tomorrow, i’ll have hope.

tomorrow i can shift the wreckage

& find a seed.

i don’t know what will grow

i’ve lost my faith in this garden

the bees are dying

the water poisons whole cities

but my honeyed kin

those brown folks who make

up the nation of my heart

only allegiance i stand for

realer than any god

for them i bury whatever

this country thought it was.
New Poetry, Every Week
Sign up to get a new poetry playlist in your inbox each week. You'll receive set of poems around a different theme, with a focus on contemporary poets.