Prelude to Bruise
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"Jones is the kind of writer who’s more than wanted: he’s desperately needed."—FlavorWire
“This book leaves your body transformed in a way that poetry should." —ElevenEleven
"I get shout-happy when I read these poems; they are the gospel; they are the good news of the sustaining power of imagination, tenderness, and outright joy."—D. A. Powell
“Prelude to Bruise works its tempestuous mojo just under the skin, wreaking a sweet havoc and rearranging the pulse. These poems don't dole out mercy. Mr. Jones undoubtedly dipped his pen in fierce before crafting these stanzas that rock like backslap. Straighten your skirt, children. The doors of the church are open.”—Patricia Smith
“It’s a big book, a major book. A game-changer. Dazzling, brutal, real. Not just brilliant, caustic, and impassioned but a work that brings history—in which the personal and political are inter-constitutive—to the immediate moment. Jones takes a reader deep into lived experience, into a charged world divided among unstable yet entrenched lines: racial, gendered, political, sexual, familial. Here we absorb each quiet resistance, each whoop of joy, a knowledge of violence and of desire, an unbearable ache/loss/yearning. This is not just a “new voice” but a new song, a new way of singing, a new music made of deep grief’s wildfire, of burning intelligence and of all-feeling heart, scorched and seared. In a poem, Jones says, “Boy’s body is a song only he can hear.” But now that we have this book, we can all hear it. And it’s unforgettable.”—Brenda Shaughnessy
“Inside each hunger, each desire, speaks the voice of a boy that admits ‘I’ve always wanted to be dangerous.’ This is not a threat but a promise to break away from the affliction of silence, to make audible the stories that trouble the dimensions of masculinity and discomfort the polite conversations about race. With impressive grace, Saeed Jones situates the queer black body at the center, where his visibility and vulnerability nurture emotional strength and the irrepressible energy to claim those spaces that were once denied or withheld from him. Prelude to a Bruise is a daring debut.”—Rigoberto González
From "Sleeping Arrangement":
Take your hand out
from under my pillow.
And take your sheets with you.
Drag them under. Make pretend ghosts.
I can't have you rattling the bed springs
so keep still, keep quiet.
Mistake yourself for shadows.
Learn the lullabies of lint.
Saeed Jones works as the editor of BuzzfeedLGBT.
individuals helps make the publication of our books possible. We gratefully acknowledge their support in detail in the back of this book. Visit us at coffeehousepress.org. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA Jones, Saeed. [Poems. Selections] Prelude to bruise / by Saeed Jones. pages cm ISBN 978-1-56689-384-8 (ebook) I. Title. PS3610.O6279P74 2014 811’.6—dc23 2014008086 For my mother Nam-myoho-renge-kyo Anthracite 1 Insomniac Closet of Red The Blue Dress
dancing. I’m hell. Guernica on all fours. Horse-mouthed and— How do you say easy? The pill on my tongue catches light like a doomed moon and we throw our half-drunk drinks to the floor. Crunch to the crack to the crack to the— glass shards in my soles; my diamond moves. Using my right nostril now, use me, you can use me if you want, I’m easy, I’m so, so easy. Say it in Spanish. Yeah. Say easy. I’m good. I work
back now. Come back and put your hands over my mouth. AFTER LAST LIGHT A moonless night cliff-side steals the sea from us. What was sapphire beyond churlish blue is just howl now: waves darker than closed eyelids wreck the rocks we also can’t see. Sunlight forgot the two of us here. The taste of salt, an ungiven kiss on our lips. And silence is the rush of blood in our ears, a violent pause between your question and what I will not say. I have no answer; my throat is the ocean now.
HOUR BETWEEN DOG & WOLF I. Before the only unbroken mirror, cobalt kimono undone, embroidered sea at my feet I’m the self-portrait of my father. Eyes deep as ravines, night-lined ribcage, even the rage is his, this dusk between both of me. II. In an hour colored tourmaline, I mistake your guitar for a body in sleep and smash you into effigy, splinter your way back into my skin. My silk-wrapped fists shadowbox your incessant reflection and break myself back open. POSTAPOCALYPTIC
does to his black skin. Boy feels the eyes on his body turn into hands on his body and the hands on his body turn into bodies against his body. Boy hardly talks all night. There is a tornado inside Boy’s silence. Hades is not hell, Boy notes. The Stranger is old enough to be Boy’s father. He has the body of a soldier. The Stranger’s shirt is unbuttoned to show off his six-pack. Boy feels the Stranger against him before he sees him. When they dance, Boy looks up into the Stranger’s face for a