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Natalie Graham



A native of Gainesville, Florida, Natalie Graham earned her M.F.A. in Creative Writing at the University of Florida and Ph.D. in American Studies at Michigan State University. Her poems have appeared in Callaloo, New England Review, Valley Voices: A Literary Review, and Southern Humanities Review; and her articles have appeared in The Journal of Popular Culture and Transition. She is a Cave Canem fellow and associate professor of African American Studies at California State University, Fullerton. Begin with a Failed Body, her first full-length collection of poems, won the 2016 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Natalie can be found on social media @NatalieJoGraham.


The Watcher, Visiting Hours


The prison rises from slanted ground,

from a loose slat in the earth,

at first sight, through the heat,

seems blowable, lucent.


We wait for your brother.

I tell you about the Watcher’s eye,

his knowing, his quick flickering,

the lights he carries.

You say, he sound like a devil.


The whole landscape is machine,

hammers its own doors open and shut.

From the lot we see the beast of sliding gates

and mechanized arms and glass eyes capturing.


We wait for your brother’s hours to start.

You draw your thumbs beneath the tired arch

of a slight foot. We laugh, call it a sliver, scrap.

Compare it to other tiny things.


The prison rises from broken stitches,

and being nothing but stone,

performs the everyday magic of exhalation,

alive with whistling smoke and grinding shadow.


My stomach is swollen with a boy

the size of an orange. I say think

what an orange can be, not just food

but the seed inside a seed, like God.


Rot too. You say, it can rot too.

Rot is always gathering in its patches.