'The Blue Terrance'

Wind in a Box

"Ultimately I'm interested in a Whitmanesque notion of poetry," says the Columbia, S.C.-born Terrance Hayes. He is the author of Hip Logic and Muscular Music and the recipient of several awards, including the Whiting Writers Award and the Pushcart Prize.

Hayes teaches creative writing at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Penn. The following selection is taken from his latest collection, Wind in a Box.

To mark National Poetry Month, NPR.org is featuring a series of newly published works selected by the Academy of American Poets. Learn more about this and other titles at the academy's New Spring Books list.

The Blue Terrance

Terrance Hayes

If you subtract the minor losses,

you can return to your childhood too:

the blackboard chalked with crosses,

 

the math teacher's toe ring. You

can be the black boy not even the buck-

toothed girls took a liking to:

 

the match box, these bones in their funk

machine, this thumb worn smooth

as the belly of a shovel. Thump. Thump.

 

Thump. Everything I hold takes root.

I remember what the world was like before

I heard the tide humping the shore smooth,

 

and the lyrics asking: How long has your door

been closed? I remember a garter belt wrung

like a snake around a thigh in the shadows

 

of a wedding gown before it was flung

out into the bluest part of the night.

Suppose you were nothing but a song

 

in a busted speaker? Suppose you had to wipe

sweat from the brow of a righteous woman,

but all you owned was a dirty rag? That's why

 

the blues will never go out of fashion:

their half rotten aroma, their bloodshot octaves of

consequence; that's why when they call, Boy, you're in

 

trouble. Especially if you love as I love

falling to the earth. Especially if you're a little bit

high strung and a little bit gutted balloon. I love

 

watching the sky regret nothing but its

self, though only my lover knows it to be so,

and only after watching me sit

 

and stare off past Heaven. I love the word No

for its prudence, but I love the romantic

who submits finally to sex in a burning row-

 

house more. That's why nothing's more romantic

than working your teeth through

the muscle. Nothing's more romantic

 

than the way good love can take leave of you.

That's why I'm so doggone lonesome, Baby,

yes, I'm lonesome and I'm blue.

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Wind in a Box

by Terrance Hayes

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