Issue 7 / Poetry

Poetry by Xandria Phillips

CONTRACT FOR SOCIAL DEATH

Being the death of you comes            with certain

responsibilities: we must always give             you hope, we must

always distract you, we must never really see            you: the pin

-cushion body we thread our bullets into.

 

 

Know that should we see fit, you will exit this

world            twice. Should we see fit, we will be the ones

to steal               your breath, and then to steal your mother’s

ability to sleep within this nation, which no longer houses you.

 

 

We take             our responsibilities               seriously. During your first

exit                     your neck will not turn, will not swing

your eyes backwards. You will taste the taste of sulfur in your

mouth, like blowing a gun. We           are just like blowing a gun.

 

 

As for your second        death, we will broadcast your spilled

vital fluids             over your family’s television

screen – over all of America’s television screens. We will

rest our hot guns in your cold hands.

 

 

We want your misconducts

lulling off every tongue and your humanity          flat-lined,

and after your first death               you won’t feel a thing.

dingbatsmaller

OF COURSE YOU HAVE A TYPE

If I grew wings I would eat them. I have a need for a you

inside me with a bit more discretion in your pursuit of

myselves, my friends, and women that I barely know, all

 

bearing some target identity markers. My mother asks about

types when she speaks about boyfriends and serial killers with

 

little in the way of difference; a back room swelling with warm

and cold Black woman’s bodies, blonde haired and tall, yellow

in complexion, livers churning or marinating in pinot noir. When

 

we met I was chopping carrots with the intention of someone who

knows loss, like a dyke who loves her own fingers. I was also

 

sweating under my afro in that hot Accra kitchen. You weren’t

sweating; you were born in this heat. I looked at you, saw a hunter

kissing a doe long on the mouth while his left hand cut through

 

the skin and blood cords of her throat. I wanted to be those parted

black lips, that spilling throat. The men where I am from are hunters

 

and they will tell you exactly what kind and how many bodies

they hope to tuck into the beds of their trucks. Serial killers tell you

with their tongues about their collections of women like insects stuck

 

behind glass, a fine needle piercing each up-turned chest. And you

swallowed hard with your thick, lovely neck cased over an Adam’s

 

apple pulling down, as if by a string attached to your groin. You took

the knife out of my hands, told me I was worth your time and pursuit

for my smooth bones encased in the marbled meat of the season.

dingbatsmaller

TRANSPLANT

anyone will tell you how deep their roots grow/

dandelion- like/ tenacious folk fibers winding

together and grasping down to an ethnicity within reach/

 

mine/ translucent/ parched      spill at surface level and my leaves

they are like palms with pore/             stoma/ whatever you could call

my thresholds puckered       at the sun/

 

no knowledge of how this collective of organs/

this conclusion to pollen dropping down a stigma/

floated/ran/swam/grew into me

dingbatsmaller

ARRIVAL AND EXIT

The bus you rode in on should have crashed

because you covered the bus driver’s eyes

with your hands, asking: guess who, guess

who? The driver, in her navy blue uniform made

no attempt to remove your hands. She proceeded

to answer, listing the names of every woman

she had ever met. The bus made it to Virginia

where I reside. You’ve come here to kill me.

 

Your scales are brown and matte. Outside my

apartment, you shake yourself in a coil with

the rest of the lower organisms looking for

earth’s cover. I am not upset to die. I am

emboldened by the fear you cultivate in my body.

I like to be in control, so I walk through my door,

and find you waiting beside my bedroom window.

I remove your head with my shovel’s sharp tongue.

dingbatsmaller

YOU AND I

[NO COLONIAL]                                                                                                                     [POST COLONIAL]

you and I have never left Nigeria Biafra                                            the cramped apartment space we share in

Yorubaland. I raise a house of children in                                            these rooms, three stories up. I threaten

between kissing the maid on her lips. you,                                           secretly take a capsule every day to keep

kissing me, too. I write poems in lotion,                                              my children waiting in either side room.

in pools in the small of your back after                                            forcing penetration tires you. it only seems

our children fall asleep under the mosquito                                            droning to me, and my eyelashes cast

nets. a tree drops soft fragrant fruit onto                                             your lips in shadow. you admit to being

our roof. we hear ripe thuds                                                                             only one inch above me, in height,

in the night’s quiet. I am still afraid of                                           your physique failure. it’s how you comfort

snakes. bodies without limbs will unsettle                                                        my supposed barrenness. you do

me until my final days. we are witness to                                                 all your body will allow, and I persist,

civil wars in the Americas, and when we are                                                throwing out all the gifts my body

wilting, in our own cities. the world                                                      could birth you. the day my attraction   

expands, and collapses                                                                          wanes. I begin to love you, and my world

beneath our Black hands, my life                                                         shrinks. it’s the size of a human one inch

under a memory of a colonial reality                                                    taller than myself and all the people who

you don’t remember. each morning you wake up,                                         walk from my womb. I am all but

your lips, your chest, your hands all come down                                                  pushed inside out and paling

on top of me and I flinch, remembering,                                          into that yellow girl you met and bruised,

before I indulge in your gentleness                                                                       your choice pussy turned wife.

 

dingbatsmaller 

Xandria Phillips is a Callaloo Fellow and MFA student at Virginia Tech. She likes leaving the United States almost as much as re-imagining history, and interrogating what it means to be Black while abroad. Xandria’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Nepantla, Winter Tangerine, West Branch, The Adroit Journal, and elsewhere. Selected by David Ishaya Osu.

Image copyright Julie Sarloutte.

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