How does the body recite its way out

From under the grammar of flagellation?

Perhaps the verb ‘strike’ will change

And kiss its fearsome subject with permission.

Perhaps there’s a sentence that can be avoided,

Or a sharp noun that the mouth refuses to utter!

Obedience, a child of the sun is forced

To remember it like the taste of sugar.

A mother’s milk is long forgotten,

But the throbbing under the skin

Becomes its own tense marker—

A song that sings through time

And out of time—an infinity of remembrance.

The body knows. It has its own encyclopedia.

Welts from cowhides,

Aching ribs from steel toe boots,

And a purple crescent moon below one’s right eye

That refuses to wane. The body recites and

Remembers the A B Cs of thunderclap

And the crackle of lightning from a teacher

Dressed in a black cassock with skin from

A land of snow. The body remembers

The warm gush of yellow fluid

When a child in khaki shorts

And black boots was left standing

Like a wet dog in his own puddle,

As he was unable to master

The master’s grammar.


by Patrick Sylvain

Sylvain is a poet, social critic, and photographer. Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Published in several creative anthologies and reviews, including: African American Review, Agni, American Poetry Review, Aperture, Callaloo, Caribbean Writers, Transition, Ploughshares, SX Salon, The Oxford Book of Caribbean Verse. Sylvain’s academic essays are anthologized. Sylvain received his B.A. from the University of Massachusetts, an Ed.M. from Harvard; and received his MFA from Boston University as a Robert Pinsky Global Fellow. Sylvain is on faculty at Brown University’s Africana Studies. Sylvain is also the Shirle Dorothy Robbins Creative Writing Prize Fellow at Brandeis University and has forthcoming publications with Beacon Press (Essay, 2019), and Central Square Press (Poetry, July 2018).

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