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Three Poems

November 3, 2007

Terrance Hayes is constantly pushing toward new possibilities for private inquiry and new structures against which to ballast his buoyant and boundless sense of language. These poems marry swank and swagger to what I like to think of as a 21st Century gravitas.—Tracy K. Smith

 

God is an American

I still love words. When we make love in the morning,
your skin damp from a shower, the day calms.
Shadenfreude may be the best way to name the covering
of adulthood, the powdered sugar on a black shirt. I am

alone now on the top floor pulled by obsession, the ink
on my fingers. And sometimes it is a difficult name.
Sometimes it is like the world before America, the kin-
ship of fools and hunters, the children, the dazed dream

of mothers with no style. A word can be the boot print
in a square of fresh cement and the glaze of morning.
Your response to my kiss is I have a cavity. I am in
love with incompletion. I am clinging to your moorings.

Yes, I have a pretty good idea what beauty is. It survives
alright. It aches like an open book. It makes it difficult to live.

A. Machine

Hey, I am learning what it means to ride condemned.
I may be breaking up. I am doing 85 outside the kingdom

Of heaven, under the overpass and passed over,
The past is over and I’m over the past. My odometer

Is broken, can you help me? When you get this mess-
Age, I may be a half-ton crush, a half tone of mist

And mystery, maybe trooper bait with the ambulance
Ambling somewhere, or a dial of holy stations, a band-

Age of clamor and spooling, a dash and semaphore,
A pupil of motion on my way to be buried or planted or

Crammed or creamed, treading light and water or tread
and trepidation, maybe. Hey, I am backfiring along a road

Through the future, I am alive skidding on the tongue,
When you get this message, will you sigh, My lover is gone?

Anchor Head

Because keyless and clueless,
      because trampled in gunpowder
and hoof-printed address,

from Australopithecus or Adam’s
      boogaloo to birdsong
and what the bird boogaloos to,

because I was waiting to break
      these legs free, one to each
shore, to be head-dressed in sweat,

my work, a form of rhythm
      like the first sex, like the damage
of death and distance

and depression, of troubled
      instances and blind instruction,
of pleasure and placelessness,

because I was off key and careless
      and learning through leaning,
because I was astral and pitchforked

and packaged to a dim bungalow
      of burden and if not burden,
the dim boredom of no song,

I became a salt-worn dream-
      anchor, I leapt overboard
and shackle and sailed through

my reflection on down
      to ruin, calling out to you,
and then calling out no more.

G

Terrance Hayes is the author of Wind in a Box (Penguin 2006), Hip Logic (Penguin 2002) and Muscular Music (Carnegie Mellon University Contemporary Classics, 2005 and Tia Chucha Press, 1999). He teaches at Carnegie Mellon University and lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with his family.

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