A poet and critic, Cameron Awkward-Rich is the author of Sympathetic Little Monster (Ricochet Editions, 2016) and Dispatch (Persea Books, 2019), winner of the 2018 Lexi Rudnitsky Editor’s Choice Award. His poetry has appeared in Narrative, The Baffler, Indiana Review, Verse Daily, American Poetry Review and elsewhere, and he has received fellowships from The Watering Hole and Duke University. Cam holds a PhD in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford University and is Assistant Professor in Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
All my friends are sad & bright.
I think door & there is. Open & here’s a room
where everything you’ve lost is washed ashore.
We’ve seen the news. We know the story.
How even our bodies hurt us sometimes
so much. Room of broken mirrors. Room of salt.
Room of marigolds & it’s your party, baby
here’s a crown, here’s a gown & no man
just around the corner, all your eyes on you.
I think gunflower & here’s a field. Here’s a room
where every bullet planted blooms. Boy with flower.
Boy with metal rose. What’s done is done. What fire
fords you. I was a child once. Anything could be
my kingdom, all I had to do was say—
Here’s a room of water & gold & nothing else.
A room in which a man takes back his blood.
Goodbye blood. Goodbye stars. Goodbye dead light
troubling the dance your body does all by itself.
I was by myself once, beside myself, breath
fogging up a window & what’s on the other side?
Only everything you wanted & here’s a room
of everything you wanted. Think peppermint & myrrh.
Think loved & you don’t even have to die.
The Cure for What Ails You
is a good run. At least, according to my mother
which has seemed, all my life, like cruelty —
when I had a fever, for example, or a heart,
shipwrecked & taking on the flood. But now,
of course, this is what I tell my friend whose eye
has been twitching since last Tuesday, what I
tell my student who can’t seem to focus
her arguments, who believes, still,
that it’s possible to save the world
in 10-12 pages, double-spaced & without irony
I’m asking Have you tried going for a run?
You know, to clear your head? this mother-voice
drowning out what I once thought
to be my own. I’ll admit that when that man
became the president, before terrified I felt
relief — finally, here was the bald face
of the country & now everyone had to look
at it. Everyone had to see what my loves
for their lives, could not unsee. Cruelty
after all is made of distance —
sign here & the world ends
somewhere else. The world. The literal
world. I hold my face close to the blue
light of the screen until my head aches.
Until I’m sick & like a child I just want
someone to touch me with cool hands
& say yes, you’re right, something is wrong
stay here in bed until the pain stops & Oh
mother, remember the night
when, convinced that you were dying,
you raced to the hospital clutching
your heart & by the time you arrived
you were fine. You were sharp
as a blade. Five miles in & I can’t stop
thinking about that video. There’s a man
with his arms raised
in surrender. He was driving
his car. His own car & they’re charging him
bellowing like bulls I didn’t shoot you, motherfucker,
you should feel lucky for that. Yes. Ok.
Fine. My body too can be drawn
like any weapon.
Sympathetic Little Monster (Ricochet Editions, 2016)
Transit (Button Poetry, 2015) chapbook
2018 Lexi Rudnitsky Editor’s Choice Award
Finalist for 2017 Lambda Literary Award