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. 

—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.

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.


—after Eileen Myles, “Snakes”


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

Douglas Kearney
Douglas Kearney
Poet/performer/librettist Douglas Kearney's third poetry collection, Patter (Red Hen Press, 2014) examines miscarriage, infertility, and parenthood and was a finalist for the California Book Award in Poetry. Cultural critic Greg Tate remarked that Kearney’s second book, National Poetry Series selection, The Black Automaton (Fence Books, 2009), “flows from a consideration of urban speech, negro spontaneity and book learning.” A collection of opera libretti—including one written in a counterfeit African diasporic language, will be published by Subito Press in 2015. Noemi Press will publish his collection of writing on poetics and performativity—Mess And Mess And—in late 2015. He has received a Whiting Writer’s Award, residencies/fellowships from Cave Canem, The Rauschenberg Foundation, and others. His work has appeared in a number of journals, including Poetry, nocturnes, Pleiades, Iowa Review, Boston Review, and Callaloo. Raised in Altadena, CA, he lives with his family in California's Santa Clarita Valley. He teaches at CalArts.

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