The Blue Strom

Terrance Hayes



Never let the ink
of biographers touch you,
but if it happens
learn what you can
of their witchcraft.
It will be useful
should you ever find yourself
without linen.
I would never have risen
above backwoods,
bow-tied Superintendent
or circuit judge had I not studied
the alchemy of metaphor.
There are maybe two dozen gaps
in a given sentence.
Never mistake silence
for death or obedience.
Just because an anthem can’t be heard
over the bluegrass
of lawn parties and amphitheaters
doesn’t mean it can’t be sung.
If you stand on the porch
of the state house on a Sunday
you will hear the great flag
of the confederacy.
On some occasions
you may have to lower an earlobe
to the tongue whipping in the mouth
of the one Negro servant
who remains when everything else
is burned. Avoid anyone,
even your secretary, who talks
openly about revenge.
Master the filibuster,
for it will wear out the sentries
of heaven. Cultivate horticulture.
Marry after forty. Outlaw basketball.
Outlaw school buses. Outlaw
the manufacturing of transistors.
Outlaw jive-talk and rhythm.
If you intend to be re-elected
certain moods must be abolished,
it goes without saying. Remember
your duty. If you must apologize,
let it be in a language no one comprehends.

Terrance Hayes is the author of Lighthead (Penguin 2010), winner of the 2010 National Book Award and finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His other books are Wind In a Box (Penguin 2006), Hip Logic (Penguin 2002), and Muscular Music (Tia Chucha Press, 1999). His honors include a Whiting Writers Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a United States Artists Zell Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a MacArthur Fellowship.  How To Be Drawn (Penguin 2015), his most recent  collection of poems, was a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award, the 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award, and received the 2016 NAACP Image Award for Poetry.