American Sonnet for My Past and Future AssassinProbably, ghosts are allergic to us. Our uproariousBreathing & ruckus. Our eruptions, our disregardFor dust. Small worlds unwhirl in the corners of our homesAfter death. Our warriors, weirdos, antiheroes, our sirs,Sires, our sighers, sidewinders & whiners, winos,And wonders become dust. I know a few of the dead.I remember my sister’s last hoorah. I rememberThe horror of her head on a pillow. For a long timeThe numbers were balanced. The number alive equalTo the number in graves. After a very long timeThe bones become dust again & the dustAfter a long time becomes dirt & the dirt becomes soilAnd the soil becomes grain again. This bitter earth is a songClogging the mouth before it is swallowed or spat out. American Sonnet for My Past and Future AssassinI only intend to send word to my futureSelf perpetuation is a war against TimeTravel is essentially the aim of any religionIs blindness the color one sees under waterBreath can be overshadowed in darknessThe benefits of blackness can seem radicalBlack people in America are rarely compulsiveHi-fivers believe joy is a matter of touching othersIs forbidden the only word God doesn’t knowYou have to heal yourself to truly be heroicYou have to think once a day of killing your selfAwareness requires a touch of blindness & selfImportance is the only word God knowsTo be free is to live because only the dead are slaves
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 NationalBook 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 Arcs 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