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About this poet

sam sax is the author of Madness (Penguin Books, 2017), winner of the National Poetry Series. His second collection, Bury It, forthcoming in 2018 from Wesleyan University Press, received the 2017 James Laughlin Award.

Judge Tyehimba Jess writes about sax’s winning book:

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.

He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Lambda Literary, and The MacDowell Colony. He currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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

sam sax is the author of Madness, winner of the National Poetry Series and forthcoming in 2017 from Penguin Books.

by this poet

poem

REASON                /               UNREASON

 

the brain is                 

           an unlit synagogue 

easily charted               

           in dark waters

using machines            

poem

everyone knows about the woman who fell in love with the bridge
but no one cares how the bridge felt after.

everyone knows about the poet who leapt from the deck of a ship
but not how the boat lifted & bloated in his wake like a white infant
spread over the

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