as if your life depends on it



stop: freeze: write : what poem do you compose
with a gun to your head? would it click and smoke?
expose your brain’s dark matter? what poem do you write
handcuffed to the table? what spirit can a pen release
in a state of unfreed-um? it’s gloomy enough
this neptune february for ink to be redundant. backwash.
retread. systole, cramp : clenched, contorted. field
holler as arrest(ed) development.

upon closer inspection, the pretty purple lights scatter
into blue and red: the color of your blood, before and after
the lights spot you. run, spot, run. blue blood bleed.

i can’t for the life of me write like a target. dead
center. dead right. what’s left, but the we of the storm? let the ink
bleed. we will holler until we’ve fielded all questions. we will spit
until we’ve cleared our throats of stutters. we will scribble until we
teach the gun wielders to read our righting.

—for Imani Perry, and all the living


Contributor

Evie Shockley

EVIE SHOCKLEY is the author of two books of poetry--most recently, the new black, winner of the 2012 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Poetry--and a critical study, Renegade Poetics: Black Aesthetics and Formal Innovation in African American Poetry. Her poetry and essays appear widely in journals and anthologies, including Best American Poetry 2015 and Best American Experimental Writing 2015. Currently serving as creative editor on the Feminist Studies editorial collective, Shockley is Associate Professor of English at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

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