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Alison C. Rollins

Years: 2016


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.