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Rollins, Alison C

Rollins, Alison C

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Alison C. Rollins, born and raised in St. Louis city, currently works as a Librarian for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is the second prizewinner of the 2016 James H. Nash Poetry contest and a finalist for the 2016 Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in American Poetry ReviewHayden’s Ferry ReviewMeridianMissouri ReviewThe Offing, PoetryThe Poetry ReviewRiver StyxSolsticeTriQuarterlyTupelo QuarterlyVinyl, and elsewhere. A Cave Canem and Callaloo Fellow, she is also a 2016 recipient of the Poetry Foundation’s Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship. Her debut poetry collection, Library of Small Catastrophes, is forthcoming Spring 2019 with Copper Canyon Press.

Why Is We Americans

We is gator teeth hanging from the rear-
view mirror as sickle cells suckle at Big
Momma’s teats. We is dragonfly
choppers hovering above Walden Pond.
We is spinal cords shedding like the skin
of a cottonmouth. We is Psalm 23 and
the Pastor’s chattering chicklets. We is
a good problem to have. We is throats
constricting and the grape juice
of Jesus. We is Roach and Mingus in
Birdland. We is body electric, eyes
watering with moonshine, glossy lips
sticky with lard. We is half brothers in
headlock, arm-wrestling in the dirt.
We is Vaseline rubbed into knocked
knees and cracked elbows. We is ham
hocks making love to kidney beans. We
is Orpheus, lute in hand, asking do we
have a problem
? We is the backstory
of myth. We is sitting horse and crazy
bull. We is brown paper bags and
gurgled belches. We is hooded ghosts
and holy shadows roaming Mississippi
goddamned. We is downbeats and
syncopation’s cousin. We is mouths
washed out with the blood of the lamb.
We is witch-hazel-coated backs sucking
on peppermint wrappers. We is the
spiked antennas of a triangle face
praying mantis. We is barefoot
tongue-tied hogs with slit throats and
twitching bellies. We is sun tea and
brewed bitches. We is the crying
pussies that stand down when told to
man up. We is Radio Raheem and Zoot
Suit Malcolm. We is spit-slick low cuts
and fades. We is scrappy black-masked
coons and turkey-necked bullfrogs. We
is the pits of arms at stake, the clouds
frothing at the mouth. We is swimmers
naked, private parts allegedly fondled
by Whitman beneath the water. We is
late lurkers and castrated tree limbs
on the Sunday before last. We is red-
veined pupils and piss-stained knickers,
slack-jawed and slumped in the
bathroom doorway. We is whiplash
and backhanded ways of settling grief.
We is clubbin’ woolly mammoths
upside the head, jammin’ fingers in
Darwin’s white beard. We is comin’
round yonder, pigeon-toed and
bowlegged, laughin’ our heads off.
We is lassoed cowboys swingin’ in
the sweet summer breeze.

Poetry Foundation Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellow (2016)
Callaloo Fellow (2017)
2nd Prize Winner of the James H. Nash Poetry Contest (2016)
Finalist for the Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize (2016)