Wednesday Feb 28

SeanDesVignes Sean DesVignes is a Beinecke Scholar at New York University.  He is a poetry editor at shufpoetry, a Cave Canem Fellow & a Callaloo Fellow. His work appears in or is forthcoming from African American Review, Rumpus, Vinyl, and more.

Why I Write: Sean DesVignes

At the root of my writing is a simple, perhaps even, primal, linguistic urge— I came to know the varied accomplishment of phrases growing up in a Caribbean/Black American community, where, often times you could cross the street and hear an entirely new dialect from the one you just encountered. This collage of voice is certainly what has brought about the writing I’ve done for my new collection, and subsequently, informs the ways in which I go about decolonizing language in my poems and outside of them.


death is a husband too an eighth where the seventh
mustn’t lay yet will probe with his hands patting the loud
hollow of dinah’s sheets she fell from me not as from
a building but from the last song of a bad album
some failed riff fading into black leaving a bad taste
the autopsy said she died from a jam session of
pills in her stomach dick lane rolled heavy against me
as the television buzzed no one heard her collapse
a queen left to die is a blues now only the floor
can feel all I have now are dinah & dick’s phantom
embraces in my middle two small dents where their breath
would land the residue of love funny I once thought
(my life is like the dust that hides the glow of a rose)1
of myself as a landing a good rest— salvific

1 the quote in the 13th line is excerpted from Dinah Washington’s song “This Bitter Earth.”


Are we are nothing like our mothers;
examined & opened at the bed where
wetness begot life?

In many names I call
the wetness of my mouth a pregnancy—
I’ve made illegitimate notes.

Frequency lifts from
the ground governed by the tyranny of fingers
to physic & injure air.

Revenge against the void
& WWII healer—

to the gully of it all,
won’t you follow me there, the place where
shadows can be harmed?

I know I look like a man who
knew how to play the saxophone but forgot.
Knowledge is intention,

not ability, what you paste
onto a body cannot survive with it.
Forbidden is the genre

that rings in my troubled,
thunderclapped head.
I crashed onto a canal

of death but luckily
where I tumbled, there was light. A light,
yellowed, so fiercely,

I knew it could not be heaven.



another morning / air / hunger / don stares at the clock on the wall / last night’s poison / an hour thick inside of him / still / empty stomach / accelerates the body’s betrayal / head troubles / a flight back to America / is out of the question / survive / another week / in / Sweden / whiteness / them downtown / the rest of the blacks / you can hardly / squeeze two coins / out of / night / don’s odor nails / the room / a hard wind / a family of spoons / & / saxophones rest on the floor / they belong / in the same kitchen / the silver / plastic-gold / collaborate against / the ground /


albert! / don calls / lump in his throat / a rocket. quit / yelling other people / live here man / albert / moans harshly you still / ain’t write / john yet / you gonna get / around / to it / ? when i’m / ready what about / when / I’m / ready


albert stares / don / farewell stuck / all the places / music takes / brotherhood / albert avoids / this / one / place / screams / overtake the room / distance between / their voices / is everything / ruined about / music / rhythmic planes ignoring / one another / interrupt / collide


when younger / albert would / play / ohio / working all tones / out of one / note / run / women out / the club / in the process/ it was as if / reacting to / fire alarms / albert was fire alarm / or / had blown all / beauty of living / out / they rushed / to get it back / some say he / tried / coax / inexperience / in that spirit / shit / wagered / popularity / in europe / almost kicked him / out of every club / he played / turn a simple / theme like / when the saints / go marching in / to / when saints have / panic attack / begin to march / or / a stain / goes bleeding / out / but don / followed / brother / loyal / eager to accomplish / scales / neither knew / noises / corn feed don / psychosis


there was a split in the swing

          brubeck & getz did germany
                       roach & ayler, paris

night was segregated

leagues away
     from the US skin still
         presided over us
              the way a grave
does of grief

the day of rehearsals
                      i got through customs

free white & Christian
without al & don

we didn’t make it to the festival in time
so they played an old performance from us
recorded from some venue

there is nothing remarkable
about noise
without            bodies
to blame it on

ayler’s loudness could hush the yellow out of a lamp
                        but he was compromised in the studio 

some things only make sense in the flesh

a lost messiah
      & me?

                        i was loyal to my leader,
existent or delayed

      even when our hotels were of impossible conditions

the guy was marvelous i mean
      what else can you say?

      so tender, his voice, it could push out
folded napkins

                 i could’ve easily ran with getz
brubeck                       fit the mold

integration is a term us in the business
                       call tonal comedy

anything past the measure
is as free as it gets i imagine
7/8s              5/4s              it sounded great

                         but it was governed by paper

           which however thin
       still has a width
& therefore
                is a kind of box