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About this poet

sam sax is the author of Madness (Penguin Books, 2017), winner of the National Poetry Series, and Bury It (Wesleyan University Press, 2018), which received the 2017 James Laughlin Award.

Of his work, James Laughlin Award judge Tyehimba Jess writes, "Bury It, sam sax’s urgent, thriving excavation of desire, is lit with imagery and purpose that surprises and jolts at every turn. Exuberant, wild, tightly knotted mesmerisms of discovery inhabit each poem in this seethe of hunger and sacred toll of toil. A vitalizing and necessary book of poems that dig hard and lift luminously."

sax has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Lambda Literary, The MacDowell Colony, and Stanford University, among others. He currently serves as the poetry editor at BOAAT Press.

Bury

i’m interested in death rituals.

maybe that’s a weird thing to say.

when i say interested i mean,

i’ve compiled a list.

on it are mourning practices

gathered across time & continents

it’s long & oddly comforting

how no one knows a damn thing

about what follows. i wont

share it with you, only say,

evidence suggests neanderthals

were the first hominids to bury

their dead. also, i’ll say they

didn’t possess a written language,

which points toward internment

as a form of document. the body

is ink in the earth. the grave marker,

a gathering together of text.

the first written languages were

pictorial & marked the movement

of goods between peoples.

i don’t know what to do with that

but pretend death’s a similar kind

of commerce: face stamped

into a coin, what’s left of the body

in the belly of a bird, two lines

that meet to make a man

alive again on paper. i know i know,

ashes to ashes & all that dust

to irreverent dust. i know everyone

i love who’s dead didn’t actually

become the poem i wrote about them.

their breath a caught fathered

object thrashing in the white space

between letters. contrary to popular

belief elephants don’t actually bury

their dead lacking the necessary

shovels & opposable thumbs rather

they are known to throw leaves

& dirt upon the deceased & this

is a kind of language. often the tusks

from dead elephants are scrivened

into the shapes of smaller elephants

& sold to travelers who might display

this tragic simulacrum upon

their mantel as a symbol of power

& of passage. when i’m gone, make me again

from my hair. carry me with you

a small book in your pocket.

Copyright © 2017 by sam sax. “Bury” originally appeared in Prairie Schooner. Reprinted with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2017 by sam sax. “Bury” originally appeared in Prairie Schooner. Reprinted with permission of the author.

sam sax

sam sax

Sub_prize_or_program - Bury Itsam sax is the author of Madness, winner of the National Poetry Series and forthcoming in 2017 from Penguin Books.

by this poet

poem

i never wanted to grow up to be anything horrible
as a man.  my biggest fear  was the hair  they said
would    snake    from  my   chest,   swamp    trees
breathing  as  i  ran.  i prayed for a  different  kind
of  puberty:  skin  transforming  into  floor boards
muscles  into  cobwebs,

poem

like anyone i can make a list of the dead

i can make them my dead by making the list

i can write my name then name names below it 

i can craft & obfuscate & collapse

poem
They cut off our hair
& there we were
Hairless.
 
A photograph
In a history i skimmed
So quick
I missed
 
We were there
Less than elsewhere
Our hair cut
So close the scalp
Gleamed