Saturday Oct 20

TerranceHayes Terrance Hayes is the author of six books of poetry; American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassins (forthcoming 2018); How to Be Drawn (2015), longlisted for the 2015 National Book Award in Poetry; Lighthead (2010), winner of the 2010 National Book Award in Poetry; Wind in a Box, winner of a Pushcart Prize; Hip Logic, winner of the National Poetry Series, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and runner-up for the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets; and Muscular Music, winner of both the Whiting Writers Award and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. He has been a recipient of many other honors and awards, including a 2014 MacArthur Foundation Genius Award, two Pushcart selections, eight Best American Poetry selections, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and the Guggenheim Foundation. His poems have appeared in literary journals and magazines including The New Yorker, Poetry, The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Fence, The Kenyon Review, Jubilat, and Harvard Review. His poetry has also been featured on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.
---------


American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin


In a parallel world where all Dr. Who’s are black,
I’m the doctor who knows no god is more powerful
Than Time. In a parallel world where all the doctors
Who are black see cops box black boys in cop cars
And caskets, I’m the doctor who vanishes whenever
He sees a police box. In a parallel world where doctors
Box cops in arenas, and in a parallel world where
The doctors box cops in caskets, I am the doctor
Who disappears inside a skull too small to hold a mind.
Question: if, in a parallel world where every Doctor
Who was black, you were the complex Time Lord,
When & where would you explore? My answer is,
A brother has to know how to time travel & doctor
Himself when a knee or shoe stalls against his neck.




American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin


But there never was a black male hysteria:
As if you weren’t the lover of Langston Hughes,
Forced to hold what you knew of his measure
Secret until it drove you mad enough to cruise
The dive bars reciting the poems he wrote
About you but never published for shadows:
Lines covered in bruises & stars, almost
Unhinged lyrics. The man was high yellow
In public, afraid of himself, pretending the Blues
Was a substance when in fact, it was the opposite:
Like a breath that comes so quickly you
Feel you’re breathing ether: either atmospheric
And anonymous as the air against a window,
Or indefinite & mute as a curtain of wind.



American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin


But there never was a black male hysteria
Like the logic of one who litters to lower
The number of fires caused by burning cigarettes
Tossed in trashcans is relatively low but fear of fire
Probably explains the number of butts everywhere
In New York democracy is like the story of many
Black people in America are rarely compulsive
Hi-fivers believe joy is a matter of touching others
Is forbidden the only word God doesn't know
You have to heal yourself to truly be heroic
You have to think once a day of killing your self
Awareness requires a touch of blindness & self
Importance is the only word God knows
To be free is to live because only the dead are slaves




American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin


But there never was a black male hysteria:
As if you weren’t the spouse of Toni Morrison,
Forced by love to watch her flower, as well as
Literally expand. The locks of her hair prevented
Your skin from ever touching her skin. You never
Smelled the nape of her neck, though you glimpsed
It when her head cocked to illuminate paper. As if
Everything was a tool or weapon. Often you offered
Your measure, but she preferred her own song.
As if to make your manly blackness more strange,
More elaborate, more characteristic, fine-tuned
And refined. Soaphead Church, Empire State, Guitar,
Gideon, Son. The hysteria of being so multiplied
And divided in a mind, you go out of your mind.