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for My Past and
by Terrance Hayes
The earth of my nigga eyes are assassinated.
The deep well of my nigga throat is assassinated.
The tender bells of my nigga testicles are gone.
You assassinate the sound of our bullshit & blissfulness.
The bones managing the body's business are cloaked
Until you assassinate my nigga flesh. The skin is replaced
By a cloak of fire. Sometimes it is river or rainwater
That cloaks the bones. Sometimes we lie on the roadside
In bushels of knotted roots, flowers & thorns until our body
Is found. You assassinate the smell of my breath, which is like
Smoke, milk, twilight itself. You assassinate my tongue
Which is like the head of a turtle wearing my skull for a shell.
You assassinate my lovely legs & the muscular hook of my cock.
Still, I speak for the dead. You will never assassinate my ghosts.
SOURCE: American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by
Terrance Hayes, Penguin Books, New York, USA, 2018.
TERRANCE HAYES is a poet
and English professor, born in
1971 in Columbia, South
Carolina. After receiving his
MFA from the University of
Pittsburgh in 1997, he taught
in Southern Japan,
Columbus/Ohio, New Orleans/
Louisiana. Later, he went on to
teach at Carnegie Mellon
University and the University of
Pittsburgh. He is currently
Professor of English at New
York University and resides in
New York City.
Hayes has served as the poetry
editor for New York Times
Magazine during 2017-2018.
He was guest editor of The
Best American Poetry 2014,
the preeminent annual
anthology of contemporary
American poetry. His poems
have appeared in ten editions
of the series.
He was elected a Chancellor
of the Academy of American
Poets in 2017 and serves as an
ex-officio member of the
Academy's Board of Directors.
Hayes' books of poetry include:
~ American Sonnets for My
Past and Future Assassin
(2018) - finalist for the National
Book Award, the National Book
Critics Circle Award, the TS
Eliot Prize, the Brooklyn
Public Library's Literary Prize
for Fiction & Poetry, the LA
Times Book Award, the
Hurston-Wright Legacy Award,
and the Kingsley Tufts Award;
~How to Be Drawn (2015) -
received the 2016 NAACP
Image Award for Poetry;
~ Lighthead (2010) - winner of
the 2010 National Book Award;
~ Wind in a Box (2006) - a
Hurston-Wright Legacy Award
finalist & named one of the
best books of 2006 by
~ Hip Logic (2002) - a National
Poetry Series selection &
finalist for both the LA Times
Book Award and the James
Laughlin Award from the
Academy of American Poets; &
~ Muscular Music (1999) -
won a Whiting Writers Award &
the Kate Tufts Discovery Award.
This book [American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin]
has allowed me to write some complicated love poems
sometimes whilst pretending I'm writing about Trump
throughout. I'm doing both, and it's the same. Trump is a
wounded person too, clearly. I'm saying to Trump, you'd be
much more interesting if you weren't such a coward. Clearly
you are afraid. The hair, his tweets, it's all fear, it all indicates
cowardliness. So, I'm like, man, if you got over that you'd be
interesting. He'd still be fucked up. He'd still have a poor moral
centre but more interesting, at least. Writing out of that leads
me to really interesting places...
~ TERRANCE HAYES IN INTERVIEW WITH RACHEL LONG FOR THE WHITE
REVIEW MAGAZINE, JANUARY 2019.
Anything I say in a poem, I mean it. Feeling and intuition is the
only important thing to me. You can persuade someone
through logic that perhaps what they're thinking is wrong. But
you can't persuade someone that their feelings are wrong. You
can't tell a motherfucker that they ain't hungry if they're
hungry. No words in the world can do that. So I trust feeling as
a bedrock thing. Can you want to kill a motherfucker and
simultaneously love them?
~ TERRANCE HAYES, SPEAKING ABOUT HIS POETRY COLLECTION,
AMERICAN SONNETS FOR MY PAST AND FUTURE ASSASSIN (2018), IN
INTERVIEW WITH HANIF ABDURRAQIB FOR POETS & WRITERS MAGAZINE,
JULY/AUGUST 2018 EDITION.
FOR MY PAST AND