Justin Philip Reed

Justin Phillip Reed is a South Carolina native and the author of the chapbook A History of Flamboyance (YesYes Books, 2016). His first full-length book of poetry, Indecency, is forthcoming from Coffee House Press in 2018. His poems and essays appear—or soon will—in Boston Review, Catapult, Columbia Poetry Review, Eleven Eleven, Kenyon Review, Obsidian, PEN American, RHINO, the Rumpus, Vinyl, and elsewhere. He is the Online Editor for Tusculum Review and currently lives in St. Louis, where he is a Junior Writer-in-Residence at Washington University.

 

 

STILL LIFE WITH MOTHERS & HALF-FULL VESSELS

ft. Jericho Brown

 

 

All the holograms of our children shuttle
forth and stink of holes the sun’s chorus

whistles through. Their shuffle marquees
eclipses into falling dust. The days cross us.

There’s the weight of a father in the wind
when the storm doors shudder open.

Tree limbs, whipped nude, offer what’s left
of nests: little knots of obstruction.

Our lips cloak the backs of names known
in the valley of the passings that age us

to hyphen-hew the tongue. We breathe
what breathes after we don’t, is contagious,

is content among beauty’s ragged tonsils,
swollen nodes. A misting cornea froths

our mirrored faces into one grief. The dead
remember us as objects placed in their paths.

They drop in like banded stems down the throat
and don’t wilt. They take place in the pressure

of narrative, fatten off rib meat, threaten us
with newborns, make music of the fracture.

They are what without end beats the walls
to baby teeth, and what eats the squall.

 

 

I MUST BE SOME KIND OF IMPOSSIBLE

“According to whom, I asked, who determines those parameters for a people who wrote themselves into the category of ‘human’? In fact, whose humanity?”
— Dawn Lundy Martin

 

 

Yes, to whom does this
human belong, then? That word’s
one cage I don’t court.

I sign I Am A
Crude Portrayal of Person
Hood. (Go Ahead, Grieve

the Dog.) I’m a howl
that keeps happening to them
in the form of short

snuff films, shot distant
and unclickable. It’s easy
to be unreal,

to be unbeing.
To signify the sub- and
the super-human

in the same body—
I demarcate the limits
of living. That is,

I doubt I’ve ever
been other than ghoul, a rare
talent of meat to

breed maggots without
the copulation of flies—
which is fine. I had

planned to wolf them all
anyway, to be that ain’t
that hackles the rott.

 

 

THE VALE OF MALEVOLENT VOLUME

 

 

unmythologically we dragged the bodies there
to find themselves finally bodies backward
dragged them over the unrest of leaves

limbs trussed in our slobbering perforators
in blackness the moon like a fang through
a lip their necks with nowhere to turn

but the backs of our throats which were
everywhere throats once the baskets of
softness hopesburrow then hornets nests

of nameinvain through hammer door and
fists of nails sounds we made were the fiction
of us reciting itself until all of our bark was

callous it’s said at last our speechlessness
worried them sick the cities were hard
to remember soon after the lights were

killed and long before we plunged them
darkly under claws our concrete scrabble
we tunneled under the suburbs stormed

the stairs and stories and stories of children
here when knots of fingers slipped from root
and crag when we molar nagged the ankles

married bone to bone we understood their
outbursts what a tongue would not contort
enough to soothe we knew that noise

as well as we knew our swarm at last to be
a compaction of lightlessness more dense
than any against which their terror raked

itself raw our jaws recorded their melancholy
for flailing which we engraved on the forests
we recognized the cries we didn’t pretend not

to hear them hearing did not make us want to stop

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