Issue 6 / Poetry

Poetry by Quenton Baker

“negroes exist

                        for the throwing”


and then what?


i am

this man.


every measure of me:



spear slapped to shield

and then what?

how many hanged

for the ghost

of a big dick?


every piece of me

has been a reason

to squeeze to cut

to fuck to take.


i am this knife

into      drum


i am tied

to his skin

by one bleak syllable:

black                power

black                love

black                survival

black                detonation.



and then what?




little boys are taught

that      war      makes kings

that      kings    build nations

that      nations            are worth

who they break.


young boys are taught


war is talk.


glock    musket handspike

bowie knife proud between vertebrae


it is like this then:

we are tickled to be reflected  to be recognized

to never flinch at a hand-pressed throat


a white god

black mirror


and the dark woman

is the wood


split to make the frame.



put the iron

just beneath the larynx


lock them up               lock them up               lock them up


and lead them

to cage                         in the belly

of the ship.



snug as cargo

can be.



of seaworthy wood

bobbing           darkly.



the moon is thick

as a hog.



it’s shot clean



go look.

they let you

free      here.


where a nigger woman

gon run to       on black salt?


there’s some magic

in them feet.    that’s true.

but you gon carry us all?


and then what?                       we have come to this:


my last name:


coffled to water


watch how metal do   how tied we get, how sinkworthy.


kick faster/drown faster

i should let love slow down

in me.


feel it fill it swell

in this deep bag

of black sweat.


i know you would like that:

alien sand packed thick in my throat

or salt sucking the teeth out my mouth.

don’t matter, huh?      you just want me undone,

any one of nature’s big legged rickshaw pullers

can get the glory of dragging my undersong  through to silent finish.


because what could be worse?

what bright hell burns back

your feelgood like the me of me,

commodity come to speak?


my voice: a thousand shoulders turning.




in this house:

what can be named whole?


we sleep           on a fixed pattern of chipped stone

we sleep           bricked in        with our beginnings:

the first bite of pork fat/first tobacco leaf


between everything heavy


we sleep           in the finished sun

we sleep           through ruined moon

we sleep           in uniform

sewn in


we sleep           allergic to ether

we sleep           badly behaved

we sleep           allergic to home/frantic return

we sneeze scent toward sheets

we sleep           in constant bloody arrival


we sleep           and sleep

we sleep           with none of the masters’ manufactured peace:

soundless guillotine


finishing bloom.



Quenton Baker is a poet and educator from Seattle. His current focus is the fact of blackness in American society. He is a 2015-16 Made at Hugo House fellow and a 2014 Pushcart Prize nominee. His chapbook Diglossic in the Second America came out from Punch Press in 2015. Selected by Dawn Lundy Martin.

Image © Jeremy Haslam via Flickr Creative Commons.