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Two More Poems

Kaleem M. Hawa

Art by Hardy Hill


Any boy can,

can play with their aura, can

wear their magic jewelry:,

in Washington Heights,

any boy can write poetry for themselves

—I wrote poetry for myself—,

but they have to admit—I, too, am ashamed—,

that blue eyes occasionally glance

at their words,

that they spend too much time with

the eaters of grilled cheese with ajvar

and garlic scapes and pickled walnuts—

I heard they’re not good for you!—,

so much time that they’ll eventually

smell like oud too, its rotting trees,

sickly nice like white boy codeine,

so sweet I can’t tell they’re sticking me up,

that they have it in for me,

destroyers of my world, and those

who taste like me


Italicized material from ‘Blue Eyes’, Kaputt (2011) by Destroyer.


Immune Systems

I swear my nose is stuffed up,

and I can barely breathe like this,

windpipe clogged, mouth agape

to let the air in and out,

the rattling of my breath

and clucking of my tongue

on the roof of my mouth,

makes you think I am about to speak,

about to break my silence,

but instead I just continue my breathing,

back mattress-bound, eyes glazed and distant,

you wait to hear the words you’ve been wanting for:

there is a male victimhood epidemic;

but you’ll keep waiting,

because the sickness has me now,

the beta-complex, and my blood cells struggle,

unshackling me from disease,

because freedom begins with remorse,

or sadness begins with assurance

and the silence means you lost


Kaleem M. Hawa is a graduate student and Rhodes scholar at Lincoln College. He is the recent winner of The White Review Poet’s Prize.