American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin
You have a gun but to use the bullet
You decide your wife, having snuggled it
Under her tongue, should then smuggle it
Into your pie hole but she swallows it.
You have a gun but to use the poison
You have your son dip a rose in venom
So strong the smell alone will kill someone,
But the first to die smelling it is your son.
You have a gun but to use the dagger
You decide your daughter should dangle
It beneath her dress. She refuses to endanger
Her self-respect. You need to find goons,
Wranglers, wire, gin, ingenuity, cotton gins,
You need the constitution. You have a gun.
Copyright © 2018 by Terrance Hayes
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission
Terrance Hayes is the author of Lighthead, winner of the 2010 National Book Award and finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His other books are Wind in a Box, Hip Logic, and Muscular Music. His honors include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a 2014 MacArthur Fellowship. How to Be Drawn, his most recent collection of poems, was a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award and received the 2016 NAACP Image Award for Poetry.
In seventy poems bearing the same title, Terrance Hayes explores the meanings of American, of assassin, and of love in the sonnet form. Written during the first two hundred days of the Trump presidency, these poems are haunted by the country’s past and future eras and errors, its dreams and nightmares. Inventive, compassionate, hilarious, melancholy, and bewildered—the wonders of this new collection are irreducible and stunning.
“The right poetry collection for right now.”
—The Los Angeles Times
“Sonnets that reckon with Donald Trump’s America.”
—The New York Times