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About this Poem 

“I've been writing variations on the line ‘a body like a slash of lightning’ in my notebook for at least three years now. It was just an idea I kept returning to, trying to make work. There is a rage to the idea that I found difficult to shake. It kept calling to me like a memory that refused to be forgotten.”
—Saeed Jones

A Memory

When they finished burying me, what was left of me
sent up a demand like a hand blooming in the fresh dirt: 

When I’m back, I want a body like a slash of lightning.
If they heard me, I couldn’t hear their answers. 

But silence has never stopped me from praying. 
Alive, how many nights did I spend knelt between 

the knees of gods and men begging for rain, rent, 
and reasons to remain? A body like the sky seeking

justice. A body like light reaching right down into the field
where you thought you could hide from me. 

They’ve taken their bald rose stems and black umbrellas
home now. They’ve cooked for one another, sung hymns

as if they didn’t prefer jazz. I’m just a memory now. 
But history has never stopped me from praying. 

Copyright © 2018 by Saeed Jones. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 28, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Saeed Jones. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 28, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Saeed Jones

Saeed Jones

Saeed Jones is the author of Prelude to Bruise (Coffee House Press, 2014), a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist and winner of the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry.

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Her blue dress is a silk train is a river
is water seeps into the cobblestone streets of my sleep, is still raining
is monsoon brocade, is winter stars stitched into puddles
is good-bye in a flooded, antique room, is good-bye in a room of crystal

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           I won’t be forgiven

for what I’ve made

of myself.

            Soil recoils

from my hooked kisses.

            Pines turn their backs

on me. They know

what I can do

with the wrap of my legs.

            Each summer,

when the air becomes crowded

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Boys begin to gather around the man like seagulls.
He ignores them entirely, but they follow him
from one end of the beach to the other.
Their footprints burn holes in the sand.
It’s quite a sight, a strange parade:
a man with a pair of wings strapped to his arms
followed by a flock of