Tuesday Jun 25

TariqMalcolm Malcolm Tariq is a poet and playwright from Savannah, Georgia. He is the author of Heed the Hollow (Graywolf Press, 2019), winner of the 2018 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, and the chapbook Extended Play (Gertrude Press, 2017). He is a Cave Canem fellow. He was also a playwriting apprentice at Horizon Theatre Company and was a finalist for the 2018 Princess Grace Fellowship with New Dramatists. His plays have been developed by Working Title Playwrights and his poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in CURA, Vinyl, Nepantla, Tinderbox, and The Iowa Review. A graduate of Emory University, Malcolm has a PhD in English from the University of Michigan. He lives in New York City.
---------
 
Niggerhead
 
How far into oblivion can it descend?
Not the head, but the holder—
 
he who keeps as relic my scorched
tongue. O! How I long to tell of it,
 
forget the ornate vestibule
in which it stands. This one season
 
or the next. Hand. Ear. Foot.
Breast sawed off in plunder.
 
Is it the body’s part or the human’s,
this arcade of Americana?
 
We pillage into the next era
unbothered by the road, its dust
 
settling into our skin cells—
the dead touching the dead living.
 

 
Niggerhead
 
How far into oblivion can I descend?
My mouth holds this much history,
 
this scorched tonguing of white flesh.
O Master! How I long to tell of it,
 
to be held even in this dread
locked grip of hand thrusting my past
 
into its future era—the next pillage
of face. Bottom. Slapped into obedience.
 
Is this pleasure? I want to remember
all of it—how this hide is prey.
 
How desire drives me into
an animal thing. I swallow
 
and drown into the seed of it—
the living touching the living dead.


 
Index to the American Slave
for whites, who—somehow—have asked
 
Nestled among books, the spine bleeds
restraint. I attempt
 
my chances, finding but row upon row
of property labeled, a record
sorted by interviewer, master, narrator,
state—who’s story is it?
 
How many ways do you find yourselves
here? Name tied to antithesis. How many ways
 
do I find myself—thus far, still waiting.
 
And though located, not found.
The deep root clenched to dirt.
It’s blood root deep but unnamable
 
save the stock or kin.
 
Let the record show: we cannot
call our names without uttering yours,
the mess of your lives stuck between our teeth.
 
Let the record show: we still lurk
in branches your family trees denied us,
hanging in the balance. Blood
 
thirsty leaves. Catalogued
in that way—our not names.
 

 
Drapetomania: Swamp Sublime
 
forgive the swamp its magic                           niggers
and mischief to grab onto them                      who flee
in the crook of its mouth and                          wait
one death for another                                     for whispers
to become rooted in miles of muck                 to run
from the crocodile’s teeth but never               back
to the crack of whips here                              in waters
housing the thickness of death                      and birth
entangled in ropes of smog                           themselves
choosing to brave the swamp to bring           back
desire sick with the will to return                    to life