Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Douglas Kearney, Sho




I can’t reckon, so I shake my head
to a woolie of ears and shut eye continu
-um. But I come to what I must want to be

: a well.

            By I I am to call we,
by we mean what’s at the bottom

of what I want to be
—but that’s not just
Well, I could find myself

a mountaintop to get to, to there on. Would I
Then rung down myself to that stood water,

To what’s drowned down in it
              —by which I mean us



The latest from Saint Paul, Minnesota poet Douglas Kearney is Sho (Seattle WA/New York NY: Wave Books, 2021), a collection rife with a playful bounce of cadence and language writing on the body, the traumas of contemporary and historical racial violence and the traumas of history itself. As he writes as part of the poem “PROPERTY VALUES”: “That my sweat, alchemical— / of shit, makes gold? Factual. // Consider spent plantation dirt, / arena turf, recording booth— / what transmogrifies these / sans my properties? / If it could it should it’s been bottled?” Kearney plays with vernacular and the collisions of sound and rhythm to explore dark questions, histories and implications, and how one is supposed to navigate a system so obviously constructed to work against the very idea of blackness. “Systems are the end of a rope,” he writes, to open the poem “FIRST, SHE CUTS THE STEMS,” “and the rope. Measure and border / between out, in. What desire’s / entwined there.” Later on, in the same poem, writing “Systems are frictions / that flimflam as liquids. They abrade / skin. In some systems, / skins are tenor. Vehicles, elsewhere. / In, out?”


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