MARATHON AVOIDANCE begins: “all day i was crowded by it. dick on / the horizon and maybe bad dead / people watching it all go down.” How do you not drop whatever you’re doing and give that poem your full, rapt attention? How do you not thrill through phrases like, “a god in him that i could palpate,” like, “the whole dense of me”? The poem deftly runs a circuit from sex to God to laughter to death to family to history and, finally, back to laughter. The poet foregrounds pleasure through their wildly imaginative language and their breathless spirit; then, that pleasure carries us into a place of deep private and universal truth. Frost said a poem should begin in delight and end in wisdom. MARATHON AVOIDANCE is a very, very good poem.
Kaveh Akbar, 2017 Poetry Judge
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all day i was crowded by it. dick on
the horizon and maybe bad dead
people watching it all go down so
i’m not surprised by all that thirst-
decadent blessing shamble shamble
shamble and fall. it must have been
necessary to see the big god snatch
it from me in that way. i had to laugh
into the river and sun sprouts of my
wrist just so i didn’t really look like
a fool. it took so little for me to build
that world. my grandfather would say
mashallah beta you let the world drive
you. and then he would laugh. that’s
why we don’t talk about the dick on
the horizon. none of it could survive
in the same room. the laughter would
be the first thing to die and then the
rest of us.
reading about dead people all
day makes you want to move
into an empty house. that’s what
we’ll call the dick on the horizon.
i assumed his name was awais because
i’ve fallen for this before. the name is
never as important as me on the floor.
he had الله tattooed on his forearm and
you could hardly see it on the brown.
remember though, i fall on the floor.
that’s what matters. this one must have
been a painter and that’s all it took to get
paint on a nail and that’s all it took to make
me see a god in him that i could palpate,
measure, diagnose, and fall into. but you
already know at this point, i don’t fall in
to anyone. my body just hits the floor.
all the things that fell through
better dick on a better
me through an ancestor
a few children through
a night alone
it was a vivid one this time. i
thought about it until no-name
fell asleep next to me. he was a
kind one but that’s not important.
remember, it’s about the part
where the whole dense of me thuds
against the plastic crust of the G train.
i thought, maybe, i’m not the only
one branded with the same god’s
name taught from a history of dying
trees and turmeric. i thought, finally,
this is the one who knows god and
good dick well enough to explain
it to the loudest choir of ghosts. i
thought, here comes the refuge. here
comes a love to help me hold the
weight of this question instead of
standing up there, too, stomping. but
remember, i fell through him on
the floor. that’s what’s important.
and then laughter spilled from me.
at least that survived. + + +