A Poem by Morgan Parker

by Mark Bibbins, Editor

Preface to a Twenty Volume Joke Book

“And now, each night I count the stars. / And each night I get the same number.”
-Amiri Baraka, “Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note”

I’m done with The Real World
Now I watch Top Chef

And dream about a life of tasting
And get so hungry I could die

I don’t root for the moon-face
Pale in his intention

I’m grown up
I’m rooting for the black girl

Cooking fried chicken for the first challenge
All my life I taste

“Whatever man I’m a black girl”
Shaking her afro

My feelings are pretty real
Sexism is pretty real

No one tells me I’m beautiful
I dream about tasting

In all my baby photos I have this
Look like oh my god

I feel sorry
I have always been terrified to be

This is just a taste
It’s not ready yet

Roll the token around on your tongue
And let it breathe back at you

I butter my skin
A curse I drink and drink

When I wake up I never think
I will be told to be ashamed

I’m not ashamed
No one tells me I’m beautiful

Sometimes Stevie Wonder makes me cry
There is a little chill in the air

I have seen everyone before
I say everyone

Is dying but that is not what I mean
Everyone is getting killed

Animals with long greedy tongues
Animals living on blue mountains

Literally my body
Shaped like a question mark

I am trying to get lower to the ground
I am trying to breathe the soil

I want to know the future
Whatever man I’m black

No one tells me I’m safe
I’m done with singing

The only songs I know are work songs
I’m grown up chained

To bad ideas and sugar
My bad ideas are pretty real

One of them is dark arms in the sea
While the sun comes up

Minus one then plus one
I don’t think anything is a mystery

I know I’m ungrateful
I know I am very hungry

I wait too long to give up
Several eclipses pass

My hands burn and peel
Everyone is corny so I’m alone

Whatever man I’m alone
Oregano leaves shrivel I’m alone

I want to know the future
is a bright violet grape

Everything has skin
Everyone tells me sorry

I know the world is dangerous
Everyone tells me sorry

I am hallelujah the first plague
My name is suitable for spitting

Please touch me
all I have

are these terrible animals
this hunger

Morgan Parker is the author of Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up at Night (Switchback Books, 2015). She is a Cave Canem graduate fellow and a Pushcart Prize winner. She lives in Brooklyn.

You will find more poems here. You may contact the editor at poems@theawl.com.