How to Tell If You Are a Literary Dick Disguised as a Pee You Ess Ess Why

Thomas Sayers Ellis

BG-From-the-Vault-dc1From our recent Tribes issue, Thomas Sayers Ellis slams “the muzzled blank verse of symmetrical whiskers.”


How to Tell If You Are a Literary Dick Disguised as a Pee You Ess Ess Why


for Walrus


After you’ve feasted on Christians and caesuras,

“Style,” is what you call your cage, “Style,”

as if, structurally, a new species were evolving and swimming,

in-print, toward a glowing coral reef of small presses,

finger-plucked one non-political time too many

like the front glass of your ghazal-shaped tank.

In Fan Srancosis, your litter box got beach-like, clumped with rhyme.

Content tried, tried not to lie, but not even content could cease

your wade into a worn, electronic current of hooked schools

—talking about all the personas in your called-so Crew,

waxing and Slamming the muzzled blank verse of symmetrical whiskers.

Self-trained, in the Madame mode, to regurgitate rejection,

is there a canon of truth to the Romantic rumor

that you willingly refer to boring lovers as “Old Possum?”

Your collar. His leash. Your master. Her tools.

All blown whistles for learned submission.

Poet-pet, Pet-poet, if you are White there is nothing

you can do about it. You are it, curbed. If you are Black,

the nothing you can do about it Bites, bitter

and chained to a classroom-kennel where,

mostly, curled in the period of origins, sleep edits you,

surrendering to the paginated saliva of dust-jacket and bar code, spaded.

Nuanced purr, bio-bred, and as attentive as claws.

Like a bowl of milk scanned best by beginning at the end

of a quatrain down on all fours, your warm bark

caters to the taxidermy of anthologies,

even as, thumb-like, a scaly green head backs into a shell

or is it a soft rim of suffering,

tree-lined sonnets or a cave of chiropractic-twelves,

catalogued, naked and committed to blonde,

blonde wooden shelves, sinister and as tame as meter.

Ego like a domesticated login-marsupial swigging from a simile.

Dude, you act like Ted Hughes is your muse,

leaving Iowa, damn, when Jorie left Iowa, damn!

A preference for hard, first edition, dry food from a bag

over wet, soft cover, pate from a can.

No heroic couplet crowns the poop you post.

No form of linear progression reviews

the tail you can’t abuse into a fashionable ampersand.

If there is a hole, an air hole, still on your shiny gray head?

If so, I know a canto that can help you recite it

with the spiritual buzzwords of, of, of porn-hieroglyphics,

so you can be the “B” you were born to be, Biatch,

un-punned and ruined by “fetch” and Mr. Berryman’s Bones.

Under Gestures and an Assumed Name, fake femme-fatale fur

lures the suicidal mouse in your reading voice to a high window.

Anaphora, a testicle you lick . . . like the long, sung lines

of mangled rodents you leave in the grass near a tennis court.

Poems, like paw-pads, so dangerously soft,

they call to mind—well manicured golf greens,

carefully crafted wedding wishes, and cheerful death notices.

The male-you sprays the female-you for fleas.

The female proofs the male for mange.

Strays, editor-reared, sniff spines.


Thomas Sayers Ellis co-founded The Dark Room Collective (in Cambridge, Massachusetts); and received his M.F.A. from Brown University. He is the author of The Maverick Room (2005), which won the John C. Zacharis First Book Award, and a recipient of a Mrs. Giles Whiting Writers’ Award. His poems and photographs have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Callaloo, Best American Poetry (1997, 2001 and 2010), Grand Street, The Baffler, Jubilat, Tin House, Poetry, and the Nation. He is also an Assistant Professor of Writing at Sarah Lawrence College, a faculty member of the Lesley University low-residency M.F.A Program and a Cave Canem faculty member. He lives in Brooklyn, NY and is currently working on The Go-Go Book: People in the Pocket in Washington, D.C. A new collection of poetry, Skin, Inc., was published by Graywolf Press in 2010.