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My Dead

By Arisa White

Everybody she died another is dead everybody
dead and AIDS of AIDS my dead she is
there are more I know with the same story hiding
lips stitched hesitant to speak of someone you knew
how we cast dirt on the dead long before they’ve reached
how we shun those who don’t die natural
who lose themselves in dissolution
we give them our backs
our unguarded susurrations: she should    she should
she should’ve known better
sleeping with some shiftless recovering drug addict
she should   she should  she  she  she is my dead
clicking dying bones on the periphery
we could no longer match the beauty we knew
genital warts the size of her son’s two year-old-fists
she had them laser removed
it hurt to walk it hurt so bad to take a piss
so bad ached her thighs who would love her then

with my hands I would step her from her clothes
undress myself and sit legs parted waiting
to fit her behind in the curve of pelvic bone
I part and grease her scalp love her hair into cornrows
against the cliffs of her shoulder blades then we are people
we meet down South we got genealogy we are familiar
she is my dead in my arms on my collar her head rests
her breasts capitulate her body’s a summer hymn I breathe
she opens to my half prayer moans her architecture burst

an alchemy of sea and sun                                and she                 and she

                and she                and spice                                and she
                               and sugar                               she                        and love
                               and she                                                  and she

and nice

                              and she’s my dead—

                                                                                water in my hands





Listen as Arisa White reads "My Dead."

Added: Wednesday, February 20, 2019  /  From "You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened," (Augury Books, 2016). Used with permission.
Arisa White
Photo by Nye' Lyn Tho.

Cave Canem graduate fellow Arisa White received her MFA from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and is the author of Perfect on Accident, You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened, Black Pearl, Post Pardon, A Penny Saved, and Hurrah's Nest. Her poetry has been nominated for a Lambda Literary Award, NAACP Image Award, California Book Award, and Phillis Wheatley Book Award. The chapbook “Fishing Walking” & Other Bedtime Stories for My Wife won the inaugural Per Diem Poetry Prize. She's the co-author of Biddy Mason Speaks Up, the second book in the Fighting for Justice series for young readers. Arisa serves on the board of directors for Foglifter Publications and Nomadic Press and is an assistant professor of creative writing at Colby College. Please visit her website.

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