This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features two poems by Camonghne Felix.


After The Abortion, an Older White Planned Parenthood Volunteer Asks If My Husband Is Here & Squeezes My Thigh and Says, “You Made The Right Decision,” and Then “Look What Could Happen If Trump Were President, I Mean, You Might Not Even Be Here.”


What else could           I say     except I                        agree with you              really am bulldozed
with grief
                      my strength a whistle in this cold parabola          everything an arc nemesis      all of
my self a bowl
              Instead  I said               yes       he is here I mean my    fiance    I know            I made   the right decision        of course he is okay    we already             agreed on this plan        i mean look what could           happen             she says Hillary is our only option        I say I know    Look    I haven’t told anyone this             I am quitting my job    she says           my god             I think I    
              understand your           geography no               not really          I mean I’m        leaving my good god government job              I work for        the            governor         she says are you running                    I say    sort of I mean            I’m       going to work                           for Hillary
              for            America          because           we’re looking at a critical       fault     otherwise
and I know they need me                                   they told me                         they need       
              my colloquial   criticalities my totalizing          abnormalities my          compounds and
constructs of trajectory            this is the only how I know to be had               I belong to the
              people but not your                  people I mean

              I’m saying        my people                                you wouldn’t understand this                I’m
stealthy and svelte       I can counter-swell                 any tide      I           am       prepared
              she holds my hands                says thank you            you must know that it           matters
all of it matters                   
              in the bed next to me a          woman solid with         anguish and sleep         is ruby with
the wash of         bleeding out and      no one is          tending         i look down at myself, curried
              with the same deep pink        realize no  one is          tending in the taxi cab              my
husband i mean fiance                          holds my hands his fingers           all lead                       a dying
creek at the pitch of  a sword              he  says i’m okay          when                you’re okay       you
have to be okay            remember they’re waiting         on you             for days i slept like this
                             my open submission                to the cosmic opacities             of time           my
body shedding its just-built            mouth          he lies awake                meters between        us
              steady                            documenting a decay               my black studies professor said
              what are you here for               if          you’re not             willing  to die for it       I Get   it
              I’m       skunked with   the fear of        what I’m willing           to kill for it        where do I
file this nuance              to whom do I spare this                        complaint       

               When I woke                he’d been fed              watered                           wanted for
               realized he                   didn’t need my indecision        or       his inability to travel    time
               or         the       bottomless        glamor of conquering the unknown                I know now
the         octane  faults of our                  ontological      duties             the war between becoming
and         the formal        unbecoming of        being called and they said they   needed me     they
did so I went        we bellied the hole                 I did what my mother             asked of me
               stepped into the heavy       quilt of her ill drawn life               I did     my       fucking
               job I did           what I was told             in the end all my chemistry a performance of
gratitude               all my insides turned    purple with practical    storms on election
               night I flipped from                
                                        channel to channel                   neurosis in practice      as
                                        weighted predictions balance              the draw I think          no oh please
                                        you know what I’ve bled          for this             in the distance a lone
                                        voice is soprano with cheer and the silence
settles in           succeeds with               bare platitudes 
              I swear my love                       I did my best I worked with                 what I know I tilled
             I paved I          foraged labored            a land

got us   some               growth                settled           my currents      left       all of us

                           famished          bloody             hungry at         war


Aziza Gifts Me A New Pair Of Pants and Saves Me From A Kind Of Dysmorphia


you turned me into the enigma of
your sleep and I could no longer

get to you, your dream girl novaed
into soluble wins, a Mustang expensive
and out of reach. I want nothing from

her, no information, no explanation,
yet, in my Facebook inbox, she talks
of chemistry, a perceived lack thereof

how she peppers you with the music
of your fantasies, lets you into
the strobe light, her body a

body of swan songs. I can’t help but
do the comparative math work, really
analyze the friction —

on a scale of one to fuck you I am 
obviously prettier, more compelling
better dressed, better situated for

the fixed follicle of long term care. She knows
the coke life, the nightlife, the way to shake
a man down to his flimsy desires

his petty pull to the things that will
kill him slow, his tongue a rat, a
hangnail at the edge of his mouth.

still, I know that perfection
is a matter of impulse and still
there is no one too perfect to feel

worthless. I cannot be bothered with
the multiple failures of my skin. Aziza says,
but, you are so beautiful

and yet, nothing fits. I am hungry
to return to the monster I know.
In my new room, there are no mirrors —

I am confounded with how ugly I feel
how thirsty I am to be something
ductile and pliable, calling out to the

back hand of the lover I know. We are
a bus ride apart and in the olive glow
of a high midnight, he texts me with

strangled, desperate remorse:

I want off this carousel
I need my girl, my life back
You are my only caboose

The only north star I know
My one way trip to something
Larger than my obnoxious instincts

Something larger than my
complicated, calculated need to be
Bigger than you.



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