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Cave Canem’s Fellows & Faculty Exquisite Corpse

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Throughout the month of March, Poetry Coalition members will present multiple programs on the theme “Where My Dreaming and My Loving Live: Poetry & the Body,” which borrows a line from U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith’s poem “Flores Woman.” As a founding member of the Poetry Coalition, Cave Canem invited fellows and faculty to reimagine our collective voice as comprising one body by submitting a poetic line inspired by the body for inclusion in an exquisite corpse, a fully formed poem made of independently formed fragments.

On March 23, 2018, Cave Canem will present the second installment of our Poetry & the Body programming with the organization’s first-ever open mic! Emceed by fellow t’ai freedom ford, participants will read work inspired by the body. The evening will conclude with a feature reading of Cave Canem’s exquisite corpse poem, included below in its original format.*

Cave Canem’s Fellows & Faculty Exquisite Corpse

Sovereign each day in this flesh house, this castle of bone, I am fluent in the language of miracles.
Sweet skin, so dissonant,
My long-armed disillusionment walks shirtless down the night street.
Hands: black swans toward heaven gripping gold or grains or flecks of God’s glory.
gravesites filling with rain water, hum corpses into songs
Let not this cavernous ear hear the wind of trouble, oh outdone soul, auric heart
I keep myself from my place as I place my neck upon your autumn
Urging the soft tissues to abandon seizing, the body slows its breath
The wrist serves hands, serves fingers, flexes an elegant twist; tiny bones break a fall.
How else can a boy’s body know where it’s been?
the bridge between corpse and the not yet born
I held him, shrunk and beheaded, in the palm of my hand
I am held together by miraculous means
In quiet, my chest lifts, listens harder
i whisper into my palms the words i fear most to speak
This body is an impersonator of the living world, an improvisation—a perfect abyss of sanctified
This body—this antique, stained glass door.
When did I stop looking at myself in the mirror?
My limbs, liminal and longing for something to grasp
Me & my delicious appendages, as almost there as a drum solo.
Temple—any redemption detained; maxi-phonic harmony ain’t shit to this—
My throat an axe, playing its music in cool words, hot beats.
Invented form, my body makes sounds only I hear.
my spine: skeletal trellis linking the upper and lower worlds of my flesh
Holy the spine’s song, holy these plummy lips, holy the two choirs of eyebrows raised in joy.
my bovine heart understood only by teeth
sometimes the breath and back isn’t graceful
The belly is full, her womb / a symphony.
The uneven geographies of shadows and light.
Smart in the dark arts of policing my body, I become this line.
this ceaseless call to temple
cashiered bodies currency’s sugared grove, inscription a matter of flesh
song implied at nearness, a melody of touch, never a full-blown aria
but I’m sure I’m not telling you anything new.
Is an autopsy report a eulogy?–especially when the autopsy of a Black body is read aloud for
+++“unpoetic effect” to white academics attending a poetry reading on an ivy league
+++campus and the genitalia of a Black body is still the last line.
Ain’t a funeral another way of saying we all gather here to bear witness to a blk body in holy
+++matrimony to de ground we walk on?
My uncle will come back as a cardinal, / this isn’t the only body I’ll have to care for.
You let him rot, the man who loves you most
my body heals the sealed-thin lips of a wound. Black is a thread drawn tight
This skin binds and unbinds, stitching poorly sewn
This body twists, turns with age—I listen, I obey
today they tell you that your body / may cost them the election
my body is lunacy sainted, an unbroken womb.
come on tarzan | u know dis king-kunta-stic(k) be transcendental
Learnèd astronomer / under which bright constellation / might these drums cease / to summon
+++those Calypso lips / glossed to lapse all logic,
Granulated, my body whispers secrets in ochre and sepia marrowed from the bones of birds.
Often, my tongue whittles lines to sip the ink.
At what point did the leg, the arm wilt, lean into tongue?
How my tongue grew heavy with silence
The breath: the sharpest sweetest seduction
Of the belied mouth, the silence further discusses it —
throat: a soft outcry, my body open like lotus
the globe burning its siren above, the bodies brown & blistering below// our mouths upturned
in prayer
Praise this body and how it holds onto the memory of our last kiss.
We are twins of the opposite same.
shadow of ballpoint between thumb and forefinger
The argument of your body: soaring, well measured
A ravish of flamingos swooning out to sea
Your face is like the sky, both clouds and light
My eyes speak from the voice watching in yours
A denuded clarity results, like a shed layer of skin.
My body now overripe with life / a loose peel waiting
am body. embody! i’m body. om ((body)). um, body?
grinning and thumping and promising something
Until the sequence of breath became change, became life inside the blood
soothing not seething, a change
My eye has seen forever; my foot walks the way of a new world
My lineage, the moles and freckles on my face.
Fate is my flesh: skin alive with a knowing that rises from blood, bliss and a bit of blues
how i hold my fingers is a promise to my people after all this time that i still know
the freedom of the old dance / flowers at your feet / a body that obeys your commands
Phillis’s last breath, / phantom / babe suckling at her breast.
My body, ensouled in Africa’s, Scotland’s, Ireland’s, the Americas’ deep core.
My body rushes to keep up in a race I did not willingly enter.
In my daughter, I admire the underappreciated: a small fold of skin just inside her ear.
Pass through her room at full stride
The marble floor. Back to center she cants fidelity. A ruined place.
What living, breathing thing is this: born of breast and bearing
clitoris infinite
And, if not my parts, who can help me find my whole
When lightning strikes my heart I will split open.
Heart-broken, I open up.

*The poem is comprised entirely of lines by the following poets (in order of appearance): Lauren K. Alleyne, Sharon Dennis Wyeth, Marcus Jackson, F. Douglas Brown, Andre Hoilette, Tameka Cage Conley, Keith S. Wilson, Duriel E. Harris, Jadi Z. Omowale, Natalie J. Graham, Randall Horton, Ama Codjoe, Nicholas Goodly, Rachel Nelson, Melanie Hope, LeRonn P. Brooks, Jacqueline Jones LaMon, Morgan Parker, Kyla Marshell, Adrian Matejka, Reginald Dwayne Betts, Ana-Maurine Lara, Nicole Sealey, Shayla Hawkins, Major Jackson, Safia Elhillo, Cynthia Manick, Stewart Shaw, January Gill O’Neil, Rickey Laurentiis, Valencia Robin, Herman Beavers, Mary Moore Easter, John Murillo, Yolanda J. Franklin, Rico Frederick, Tyree Daye, Jericho Brown, Lynne Procope, Iain Haley Pollock, Teri Elam, Anastacia Renee Tolbert, Ashunda Norris, avery r. young, Joel Dias-Porter, Carmen R. Gillespie, L’Oréal Snell, Nandi Comer, Amanda Johnston, Metta Sama, Michelle Whittaker, Rose M. Smith, Mahogany L. Browne, JP Howard, Arisa White, Myron Hardy, Donika Kelly, Ross Gay, Erica Mapp, Carolyn Joyner, Chiyuma Elliott, Alyss Dixson, Evie Shockley, James Cagney, Aaron Coleman, Marwa Helal, Nagueyalti Warren, Kateema Lee, Linda Susan Jackson, Nate Marshall, Colleen J. McElroy, L. Lamar Wilson, Gloria J. Burgess, Breauna L. Roach, Katy Richey, Toni Wynn, Marie-Ovide Gina Dorcely, Remica Bingham-Risher, Karma Mayet Johnson, Willie Perdomo, Sheila Carter-Jones & Safia Jama.