Right Now

Sure, I want to believe a poem can block a bullet too
that a poem could save me at the end of the world,
my bug-out bag teeming with “Good Bones.” My friend’s
husband sells guns. He’s a republican. His sales boom
under a democratic president, and sometimes he feels
strange-weird about making money off his opposition.
But people are afraid, he says, that their guns will get taken
away, so they load up and up, and now that Trump is here
people are pushing poems around the Internet like a salve,
slathering feeds with verse as sustenance for the apocalypse.
I’m getting emails about my work, they read: it’s so important
right now
. I think right now has always been for sale. I was
always born writing poems about my skin and country. Anyone
in marketing knows about fads. Sometimes when I enter a new
house I wonder if they have a gun hiding under their bed, locked
and cocked… when I just have a poem in my pocket or stuck
in my head. Like when I’m in traffic, sometimes I say out loud:
I know all words come from preexisting words and divide
until our pronouncements develop selves.
Sometimes I’ll mess up
and say it again until the line rolls over my tongue like warm milk.
If someone breaks into my house and wants to kill me, do it.
I’ll have nothing but a stack of books by my bed that I’ve been
wanting to read or am in the middle of reading or holding a gift
from a friend who said you need this book right now. I thought of you
when I read this book. See: when you [                       ], everything
be a poem. Everything be – my life still standing – a loaded Gun.
Every. Thing. Be, a deadly foe bent on my destruction. No, I can’t
separate my politics from my family or my body from my body.
You say you love me/You say you love me/You say you love me,
then love these parts of me you didn’t vote for, and then say how
much you love me again. Say it louder. Say it till you’re tired like
I’m tired of forgiving and explaining myself. Sometimes, I don’t
want to forgive, or explain myself. Yes, I write what I know and
what I want you to know (and what I don’t know): is everything,
how everything be so in right now, yes, everything might be falling
apart, but the center must hold, because when you [                      ]:
it has to. The center can hold—the center can hold and still sing.

Tiana Clark is the author of the poetry chapbook Equilibrium, selected by Afaa Michael Weaver for the 2016 Frost Place Chapbook Competition. She is the winner of the 2016 Academy of American Poets Prize and 2015 Rattle Poetry Prize, and is currently an MFA candidate at Vanderbilt University where she serves as Poetry Editor for Nashville Review. Her writing has appeared in or is forthcoming from The New Yorker, Sewanee Review, Rattle, Best New Poets 2015, and elsewhere.