This week in the PEN Poetry Series, guest editor TC Tolbert features a poem by Douglas Kearney. About Kearney’s work, Tolbert writes: “Doug Kearney’s poems, both on and off the page, are conversations with the world – and for ‘conversation’ I go back to the Latin root, ‘to turn together, to face one another.’ This does not imply fearlessness nor comfort, but it does require a deep sense of encounter, particularly with a world full of black brilliance and seemingly endless attempts to destroy black people, a world full of god and godlessness. Replete with fierce vulnerability, his work engages the risk of attention (and attending) to both self and other, both historically and in this time and place. As a trans writer, I am often searching for masculine ‘possibility models’ (Laverne Cox’s phrase). Through music and silence, mess and articulation – through range of heart – Doug Kearney is exactly that kind of writer and human, to me.”


Just As I As

was Him, once fini, on the beams, 
prior, He’s hewer of thorntree. could stretch tilapia and ewer, dole it 
for all. for real came pulverized metacarpus, 
metatarsus some time later and later, latex, prosthesis, squib hocus—
once as “Green Goblin” be/been as “Him,” at these thens, still goggles nipples on tape. philistines
on His knees back beneath peace trees after the Foe stuck forked down holy cochlea. 
a he/“Him” ride with the devil. after, as “Mad Max” say, 
                   now take it up, now put it down, and bleed 
bus loads by the sandal loads just to see as “Him”/Him opening so real. 

if the other actors believe you’re the king… so I sang
alas, alas for you as “Him,” again, again at the strain of my range. 
the King dies every year, again, again for you 
but  who  seeks  to  save  shall  lose,  thus  encore!  the  merchandise  looks  looted  like  whose  temple is this?!
moneychangers   boo  /  no  /  hiss.   ipso.   this   I   facto,   since   clip-ons,   pipe   cleaners,   lamb   get-ups,
arrangements by height. find your suffering in His;  thus  directed,  reel:  the  stripped,  sinewy  model  of  Him  
as “Him.” break a…
                                                    the lights dim, the music up, stained glass cut to blood lit for love, for
                                                    now here’s where you’re there then, and can smell the dung while that
                                                    young gal’s milk mills Flesh from the star what’s hung.



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