Jamaal May is the author of two chapbooks, The God Engine and The Whetting of Teeth. He has received fellowships from Cave Canem, Callaloo, and the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. A graduate from Warren Wilson’s MFA program, Jamaal is a two-time finalist for the Ruth Lilly Fellowship, a two-time Individual World Poetry Slam finalist, and three-time Rustbelt Poetry Slam Champion, with poems appearing in Callaloo, Indiana Review, and Blackbird, among other journals, anthologies, films and broadcasts. For several years he coached Detroit’s youth slam team and taught poetry in Detroit Public Schools. Currently, Jamaal is the 2011-2013 Stadler Fellow at Bucknell University where he hosts a poetry slam, acts as associate editor for West Branch, and edits his first full-length manuscript, which was a finalist for the National Poetry Series among other book prizes.
HOW TO GET YOUR GUN SAFELY OUT OF YOUR MOUTH
Go ahead and squeeze, but not before you put on some tea, clean two cups, lift shades and pin back curtains. Not before the end of this song, before dawn reaches in, before you turn the page, or a woman apologizes for dialing the wrong man again—not before you learn her name, how to pronounce it, how to sing it with and without regret catching in your throat—Are you done? Go ahead and squeeze after the hinges are reinforced on all doors, the house secure from storm or intruder, your laces are tied, this commercial break is over, drywall is taped, spackled, painted—a nail driven, a painting hung and adjusted, (there is still so much to adjust, arrange, there is time) and you write your letter, correct every letter, scrawl the signature so swift and crooked it becomes the name of another—relax the jaw that holds the barrel, pull the gun out, point heavenward, and squeeze until the clip is empty as the chamber.