Alleyne, Lauren K.Website
Lauren K. Alleyne is the author of two collections of poetry, Difficult Fruit (Peepal Tree Press 2014), and Honeyfish (New Issues, 2019). Her work has appeared in publications including The Atlantic, Ms. Muse, Women’s Studies Quarterly, Interviewing the Caribbean, The Crab Orchard Review, among many others. Recent honors for her work include a 2017 Phillip Freund Alumni Prize for Excellence in Publishing (Cornell University), the 2016 Split This Rock Poetry Prize, and a Picador Guest Professorship in Literature (University of Leipzig, Germany, 2015). She is currently Assistant Director of the Furious Flower Poetry Center and an Associate Professor of English at James Madison University.
The catch is so fresh, each bite is blue—
the sea still in it, and settling on your tongue
like prayer. This is what it means to eat,
you think, to abandon utensils for the grace
of fingers, to hold flesh against flesh,
hands slick with what will become
inseparable from your own thrumming
body. As a child, you loved fry dry,
the small fish you ate whole, and imagined
them swimming in you, your belly
full as an ocean. Now you know better—
that nothing consumed lives on as before.
When the bone, thin as a wish,
lodges itself in the pink flesh of your mouth,
refuses offerings of bread or water,
becomes an ache that will not be moved,
you understand: this is what it means
to be a body— that what is taken in
takes root in ways beyond your choosing—
a single bite and you carry the ocean in your throat.
The Hoodie Stands Witness
for Trayvon Martin
I was built for bodies
like his, between boy and man,
sauntering in angles he couldn’t hold
but swung his limbs from, careful
cool in every step.
I can tell you the story of him,
he put change and candy
into my pockets, the necessary
jangle of keys and cellphone
hushed in the sock of me.
I watched him from the soft pile
he made of me on the floor
of his messy adolescent room
where I lay beside his sneakers
He did his homework
with chat windows open;
white headphones hooked
him into some steady beat.
That day, he was thinking
of nothing in particular.
He was quiet in his skin;
tucked into the shade of me,
he was an easy embrace
until an old ancestral fear
lay its white shadow
across us like an omen.
I can tell you his many hairs
raised in warning beneath me;
his armpits funked me up
with terror. His saunter slipped
into a child’s unsteady totter
under the weight of a history
staggering behind him
mad with its own power.
He clung to me then, wholly
unmanned, a baby clutching
his blankey. He pulled me close
and I stroked his head, caressed
the napps he had brushed to waves
that morning. I felt him brace
his bones beneath me, his heart
a thousand beating drums.
The bullet ripped through us
like a bolt of metal lightning.
His blood, losing its purpose,
ran into me and I wished
we were truly a single body,
that I could have held
its rush and flow like a second,
sweaty skin. I can tell you
how his spirit slipped out—
like steam from cooling water
—slowly, fading by degrees,
until he stilled.
Ode to the Fish-as-Weathervane
Fine Arts Work Center, Provincetown, MA
You were built for a different blue—
for oceans, rivers, clear complexes of glass
— but here you are, hoisted
among the clouds, neighbor to the stars,
your fins redefining wings.
Say flight. Say sky is ocean by another name.
Say biology is one order of being,
but imagination is another.
How you undo cliché with your unlikely
grace, slip through the clumsy nets
limits would knit around your bizarre
existence. Token, they whisper, freak.
But how you withstand the fickle
transformations of weather, read
the revolution wind scripts onto your body,
learn to move in its midst. Say evolve.
Say the first order of being is survival.
Say these gills will become lungs
and testify. Say thrive in any element
and name it possible.
Honeyfish (New Issues Press (US) and Peepal Tree Press (UK), 2019)
Difficult Fruit (Peepal Tree Press, 2014)
2017 Green Rose Prize
2016 Split This Rock Prize
2017 Philip Freund Prize
2014 IA Arts Fellow
2011 & 2009 Dorothy Sargent Rosenburg Prize
2010 Small Axe Prize
2009 Saltonstall Fellow
2009 Yaddo Fellow