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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.

Poem in Which the Writer Sees Himself in an Old Textbook, 1943

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
 
A row of six
Pixelated moons
 
Blood rose
To its feet
 
Our hair not ours
Once separated
Like a finger
Nail
 
The gold
From our teeth
 
Our hair burned
Made upholstery
Braided for women
Down the street
 
There on the page
The photograph
 
A camp  A cage
 
Right angles
Impossible
Sharp as a fade
Razors in drag
Black boots & blades
 
I pull the image up
On my screen
Thumb the six
Bare heads
Sex organs
My face
My face
 
I’m alive of course
Because others died
& i’ll be survived
By no one
 
[amen] [amen] [amen]
 
My gift
To this planet
Extinction
The singed end
Of a family line
 
Today a man sits
Beside me
At the piano & plays
A song
 
My name’s in it
The one about a man
Rendered powerless
By the woman
Who takes his hair

Even here
With his breath
A flatiron
I’m standing
Between twin pillars
 
My arms cargo
Hardly mine
 
When he’s done
I take him
To bed & empty
My family
Into his darkness
Apologizing
 
[I’m sorry]
Again & again [i’m sorry] [i’m sorry]
 
Though i can’t quite say
Why

 

Copyright © 2017 sam sax. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Fall 2017.

Copyright © 2017 sam sax. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Fall 2017.

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

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

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
in through the eye
 
device adapted from an ice pick
 
the space between the cornea & tear duct tears
 
little incisions along the frontal lobe
 
you open the grapefruit