Back to Issue Thirty-Two


2020 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry

A frenzy—like one of those nights before Fahrenheit,
when the heat was immeasurable, yes then, the bedroom

held me shaking in its black body, its radiation not like,
but is, is the head split but no goddess leaking out,

no beads of sweat but a boiling, but oceans of ache,
but waves of muscle roiling beneath flush skin, a fervor

fierce enough to make the light go out from behind the eyes,
humid enough to swell a tongue into raspberry, turn a laughing child

into vegetable. Lymph nodes so large that they could swallow
man, memory, mother bringing water in a cup. What purple

plastic? What anthropomorphic duck? What water
could endure as the forest of me turned Sahara Desert,

as my animal became a pet surrounded by dead pelts
in a sedan, in a world before air conditioning begging for pluvial?

Forget forgetfulness, I was a dune that believed it could walk
to the bathroom, then a delirious decaliter of sand poured into

a white tub, coffin cold. I tried looking in the mirror but it kept
being a window leading toward night, tried peeking out the glass

only to see my reflection staring at two moons,
blush round each cheek, cheek, four heads lavender bloom,

a third eye the color of dawn, I, I, I, seeping from
the brow’s lipid envelope, tongues outside the mouths

hotter than dog days, canines in the street, beneath
green magnolia leaves, in their ferment, the fever breaking:

I fell dead asleep—woke to a songbird’s solfège,
rose to rejoin the world of the living. That day,

a child I touched briefly, fell, hotter than a tear
on a summer sidewalk and was gone, so quick, so




2020 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry

Does anyone else, while they’re watching
the video of the cop shoot the black
man / boy / person / on the internet

pause the video right before it ends?
I do—It doesn’t matter if it’s the one
with Tamir or Oscar.

Sometimes, right before it gets to the end
I’ll stop it, then hit rewind—It’s always bizarre
witnessing the body rise and the cop

retreat, climb back into their car
before fleeing in reverse. Likewise, it is
strangely beautiful to see the snow

(un)red as the bullet exits the (un)dead
body and returns into the barrel’s black,
the boy / man / person / now standing,

walking. Does anyone else laugh
or manage a mischievous smile
imagining the look on death’s face?




2020 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry

                  —after A.Van Jordan

preposition. 1: similar to: Because there has to be an easier way of knowing, than knowing, like reading the Times or the bones, like distant sirens that sound like black women screaming or sopranos singing into the night. Because there must be a better way of understanding than experiencing—like. So when you ask what it is similar to, the answer is close enough. It is like the beat cops I saw turned shades chasing down black boys in Michigan, like if you can’t join them beat them, like a feverish Indiana night, a horde glittered with sweat ready to lynch two men and feast their eyes, like locusts swarming a field of grain as gold as youth. It is like the waters of hurricane Harvey subsuming Houston streets, like wildfires consuming homes in California, the shadows of prisoners stretching before the eyes, like a hard way to realize there aren’t enough fire fighters. Otherwise it is like an epidemic, opioid, oblique, like a flash mob but the dance is deportation, but a trans woman in Dallas is the vehicle they attempt to tip, like a scale, like Russian bots peddling misinformation until one becomes a hit, goes viral, each shared clip garnering another like, like: like, like, like.



Still Life: Roses in a Makeshift Vase

2020 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry

            a lover just wants you
                                    to bring them
                                                a dying thing—

And so I find myself
            at the bus stop, on Valentines Day,
                        in Michigan where the winter wind
                                    is killing me—softly—yet slow enough that I can
                                                            make it to the store before it does me in—

                                                            Earlier that day
                        a friend had sent a text about
how in ancient times on this special occasion

Romans would kill a goat
                        and use the still wet skin as a whip
                                                            for striking women
                                                                        in order to boost their fertility—

                                                                        Women who
                                                were very much willing
                        to stand in line for the opportunity.

            a woman wants this, these:
                        A dead thing / To be struck / To be covered in the blood
            A man does too—But on that evening
                        It is a woman who stands before me—As I hold
                                                                        a bouquet behind my back

The rubies of which I reveal to the beaming
            light of her face which unveils its true face
                        its florets like brilliant blades
                                    its stems bursting forth with red sickle shapes.

No vase.
            She sets the dozen in a coffee pot
                        leaves them to brew beneath the kitchen’s fluorescent bulb
                                    their organic glow building on vermillion edges,

a half-life, an undead beauty like radioactive waves outstretched
            penetrating like x-rays—I feel a pang in my chest
                        and then a raindrop on my right hand
                                    where, looking, I see a tiny prick and rose blossom
                                    where a thorn must have bitten in.

I say nothing—
            By then, she has made her way
                        to the couch and motions for me to join.
                                                                        And because

            a lover wants you
                        to bring them a dying thing,
                                    I shuffle myself over to her
                                                and kiss her, once more—once more



Bryan Byrdlong is a Haitian/African-American writer from Chicago, Illinois. In high school, Bryan was fortunate enough to be a part of Chicago’s Louder than a Bomb poetry slam competition. He recently graduated from Vanderbilt University, where he received an undergraduate English/Creative Writing degree and was the co-recipient of the Merrill Moore Award for Poetry. Most recently, his poem ‘,JENTRƏFƏˈKĀSH(Ə)N’ was published in the Nashville Review. He is currently an MFA candidate studying poetry at the Helen Zell Writer’s Program and a 2019 recipient of the Meader Family Award for Poetry from the University of Michigan’s Hopwood Program.

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