Literary Hub Poem of the Week

July 22, 2015  By Douglas Kearney

One of the things I’ve come to know about being in the presence of poetry, the real thing, is how quickly the possibilities of language unfold, associate, open out and light up (impossibly) seemingly everything I’ve ever read before. Which is to say, real poems contain all of poetry, past and to be. This sense of mine would be too easy to dismiss as mental bluff if it were not for poets like Douglas Kearney. When I encounter his work, such as his new epic jam below, I feel like poetry is all genres of writing at once: from science fiction and political science to history and linguistic theory, even product placement squiggles by. The colossal shifts and jaunts of his future jazz makes me feel more alive. The fever of Bud Powell’s keys, the largesse of Elizabethan verbal mayhem. Really, though, it’s all there. 

Article continues below

—Adam Fitzgerald, Poetry Editor




like to been grunted out that foul starfish into the john, Jack!
feeling a low way about it,
clap some would to wood, a tack, all caps: a couplet, cant.
it’s breathe not breath.

Article continues below

pound a pound key with them brown thumbs.
l-y-r-i-c-s found with them brown thumbs
then sung till nubbed wick of soot smokes,
up come morning pour that hot lemon, that honey, honey.
like to been pushed out that funky red eye squish, homie,
plopped atop a yard of sidewalk, uncurbed—

bucking bean bags? rubber rounds? electric boogaloo, bro?
wet the bandana you don’t like the pepper, playa.
milk, mild soap, maaloxed water.
like to been plunked out that pink asterisk stank, boo-boo,
screech these bald e’s be eating what? nigga,
niggas be watching News not *tch* Wild Whatever.
so like fish splash of little rodents is that stank?
a brick out that pink asterisk and you know we’re used up of Kleenex!
a Nike’ll do. it’ll do. chamomile, low window sill.
like to been born out that rank cornhole, girl,
they say what color? squat. pinch, still here, woke!
but we jump down hella good,
gut get a magnesia about it when we search engine with them black ass thumbs
to tally, to strike those fours to distraction. woooooooooo!

mourning with our minds’ set on the bent arc; ‘s’okay, no prob, st. xanax!
like to been deuce-moved out that pee-yew chute, sis.
when we look, we look moonward,
that chute we shot out shuts its rosy fist,

we splut on car hoods, on oxidized locks of stiff founders,
boughs of old poplars, a rock by a waters of fat-ass bass,
streets of certain cities they say wilds grow too close to,
plastic bag coming for to carry.
2015? all over our eyes, shoeprints stay, boy.


Article continues below

—after Eileen Myles, “Snakes”


Featured image is The “We” Hours (2012), by Henry Taylor.

Douglas Kearney
Douglas Kearney
Douglas Kearney has published seven poetry collections, including Sho (Wave 2021), which was a finalist for the National Book Award, PEN Award, and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, and Buck Studies (Fence Books, 2016), winner of the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Award, the CLMP Firecracker Award for Poetry, and the California Book Award silver medal for poetry. M. NourbeSe Philip calls Kearney’s collection of libretti, Someone Took They Tongues. (Subito, 2016), “a seismic, polyphonic mash-up.” Kearney’s Mess and Mess and (Noemi Press, 2015), was a Small Press Distribution Handpicked Selection that Publisher’s Weekly called “an extraordinary book.” He has received a Whiting Writer’s Award, a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Cy Twombly Award for Poetry, residencies/fellowships from Cave Canem, The Rauschenberg Foundation, and others. Kearney teaches Creative Writing at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities and lives in St. Paul with his family.

More Story
Life on Grímsey Island From the second floor Oliveira could see the street was beginning to show signs of life. A green and blue bus went past,...

Become a Lit Hub Supporting Member: Because Books Matter

For the past decade, Literary Hub has brought you the best of the book world for free—no paywall. But our future relies on you. In return for a donation, you’ll get an ad-free reading experience, exclusive editors’ picks, book giveaways, and our coveted Joan Didion Lit Hub tote bag. Most importantly, you’ll keep independent book coverage alive and thriving on the internet.