Today in the PEN Poetry Series, guest editor Maggie Nelson features six poems by Fred Moten. About Moten’s work Nelson writes: “With insistence, music, and a measured softness, Fred Moten’s poems construct idiosyncratic, critical canons that invite our research and repay our close attention. Moten has spoken eloquently of the political and lyric importance of the “fugitive movement in and out of the frame, bar, or whatever externally imposed social logic—a movement of escape, the stealth of the stolen that can be said…” It is hard to make a poetry that shimmers on such an edge. Moten does so, and then some. I deeply appreciate his work’s intimacies, secrets, and deep offerings.”


                     in the
                                    light up close
                                  but black is quiet parallel.
    remember the
                                        recording angel? kinda crack that
                                        window open, sweet.
                                   through the
                                                          sun, but way down on the tapestry.
                         delle bolton, elvin jones,
                                                     amalle dublon, johnny griffin

the absence of your letter
shines in absent distance.

taija the lonely weaver
veils wind around a spear.

the tree’s mail sounds
aspen. the chain

shines valdez. laila
the lonely colorist

is nia’s velvet découverte
of the immediately shade.


                              old women with babies and windows                         

show not that curving violet this dry                                                                                          
                             blue day. it’s fall                                                                                                 
              across the park.                                                                  
a doll baby, in the plaid                                                                                   
        shirttail of los angeles,                                                                     
                                            held like a breeze
               down the grass, a painting                                                                                             
                             running a nail’s edge, barely                                                                          
               steel on a picture of forests on                                                                                       
                                a black flower, a steel bar tracing                                                                                

               black crossing, a violet swing.

blow pretty behind
joe. never be the one
in sequence. of the flew
who work off collage
lil is following. only
joe lies stone and dan
is stiffly breathing
that slight stiffening
of paolo reading. as
amelita reading too.

                                                                                                                                                                  thrill the air with a
              regular flash.                                                                                                       
                            somebody playing
daydream looking through.                                                                                            
              all the sun in colored                                                                                       
              glass to play the mystical                                                                                
                     body. come and lay your
                           sister come                                                                                          
                                        and brush your                                                                   

grad grind, gentles, till the park is gone.

his hair was like furry lining brushed and see-through and he was pale, his pinkness had a descent
in it, like he had warmed down,

but you could tell by the way he took up space, scared somebody would get him for all that careless
bumping into people,

trained in expansion at an early age, his demands at the informational meeting were sharp and
unchecked in his mother’s

bloom, with her metal hands,

while his father explained the proper use of the materials to the principal. maria and cesare and the 
theory of handcuffs,

asking for what they took because it’s hot as hell between the baguette, don’t bring your own 
tamales, and the house of york.

the plan when we were surfing was to blow that school up with some extra words, urge kilombo
more than across, get us some land.

here go el durm in the window. 


Once a week, the PEN Poetry Series publishes work by emerging and established writers from coast to coast. Subscribe to the Poetry Series mailing list and have poems delivered to your e-mail as soon as they are published (no spam, no news, just poems).