Two Poems

By Joshua BennettMay 27, 2018

Two Poems


These poems appear in the LARB Print Quarterly Journal: No. 18,  Genius

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Will naturally begin

with a blues note.


Some well-adorned

lovelorn lyric


about how

your baby left


& all you got

in the divorce


was remorse.

& a mortgage.


& a somewhat

morbid, though


mostly metaphorical,

obsession with


the underground.

How it feels to live


in such unrelenting emptiness,

unseen, altogether un-correctable


by the State’s endless arms.

Just imagine: Ellison’s Prologue


set to the most elaborate

Metro Boomin instrumental


you can fathom, brass

horns & pulsar cannons


firing off in tandem

as Aretha lines a hymn


in the footnotes. Twelve &

a half minutes of unchecked,


bass-laden braggadocio.

The most imitated,


incarcerated human

beings in the history


of the world & every nanosecond

of the band’s boundless


song belongs to us.

It is ours, the way


the word overcome

or The Wiz or Herman


Melville is ours. In any corner

store or court of law, any


barbershop argument

or hours-long spat


over Spades. The Next Black

National Anthem will,


by the rule, begin

in blood, & span


our ongoing war against

oblivion. Clarify the anguish


at the core of our gentleness.

How even that generosity


is a kind of weapon.

This music, our blade


-d criticism of a country

obsessed with owning


everything that shimmers,

or moves with a destination


in mind. Even the sky.

Even the darkness


behind our eyes

when we dream.





What I desired most was approachlessness,

enough fear to mark a sharp & ardent


wall between me & the broader social

sphere, think: semi-invisible


force-field, think: aura light

umber like Bruce Leroy.


A beauty one might use to keep

a state-sanctioned grave


at bay, the distance

this darker body ought


to buy but doesn’t.

If evolution were kind,


we would all be fireproof

by now. A shame, to be sure: this


brutal truth boomeranging back

& forth across America’s oeuvre,


History stammering with blood

in its throat, blood on the books, blood


on the leaves & what can you right

-fully call living now that the dead


have learned to dance so well?

Knife wounds in the global sky,


White god on my childhood mind

& you want to talk about repair




LARB Contributor

Dr. Joshua Bennett hails from Yonkers, NY. He is the author of The Sobbing School (Penguin, 2016) and Being Property Once Myself: Blackness and the End of Man, which is forthcoming from Harvard University Press. Bennett holds a Ph.D. in English from Princeton University, and an M.A. in Theatre and Performance Studies from the University of Warwick, where he was a Marshall Scholar. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The American Poetry Review, The New York Times, The Paris Review, Poetry and elsewhere. He is currently a Junior Fellow in the Society of Fellows at Harvard University.


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