jim crow stole my father’s wings
that cat was a straight arrow, flying like he’d been shot
true from a sturdy bow, in a steady parallel to earth. scotfree : his tail all feathers, his high all feet. he kept a cloud
in his pocket, the wind’s whistle between his teeth. proudof his hours, his ratings, his license to skill, he took off
after a uniform and a jet. but a foul thing, packing a roofand crawling in his wake, fused its (b)lack to his (f)light :
an arbitrary shadow screwed to his heels, waited his floatwith gross ballast, dragged him down when gravity’d failed.
he held on to the whistle, sent it soaring up from the soil. —after eduardo corral
Copyright © 2017 by Evie Shockley
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission
Evie Shockley is the author of several collections of poetry, including a half-red sea and the new black. She has won the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Poetry, the Holmes National Poetry Prize, and fellowships from Cave Canem, MacDowell, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library. She currently is an associate professor of English at Rutgers University New Brunswick. (Author photo by Nancy Crampton)
Art can’t shield our bodies or stabilize the earth’s climate, but Evie Shockley’s semiautomatic insists that it can feed the spirit and reawaken the imagination. The volume responds primarily to the twenty-first century’s inescapable evidence of the terms of black life—not so much new as newly visible. The poems trace a whole web of connections between the kinds of violence that affect people across the racial, ethnic, gender, class, sexual, national, and linguistic boundaries that do and do not divide us. How do we protect our humanity, our ability to feel deeply and think freely, in the face of a seemingly endless onslaught of physical, social, and environmental abuses? … In poems that span fragment to narrative and quiz to constraint, from procedure to prose and sequence to song, semiautomatic culls past and present for guides to a hoped-for future.
“[In Evie Shockley’s] newest collection, semiautomatic, are the horrors of America: the sex trafficking, the violence towards a 14-year-old girl in McKinney, TX, the murder of Renisha McBride, and more, and more. It is an onslaught. But so has been living through these years. semiautomatic offers the art we need to travel through the rage and grief together.”
“Evie Shockley suggests that poetry is necessary to seeing, surviving with equilibrium and wholeness in this period’s vital and precarious junctures. The poems in semiautomatic are on fire.”
“There is no keener mind in American poetry than Shockley’s, with her quick turns and inflections, slipping between subjectivity and documentary, between verse and refrain. Her poems engage—politically, formally, historically, profoundly—with the redistribution of power through language. Read this book and get shook.”
—D. A. Powell