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Online Feature: “Athazagoraphobia (Fear of Being Ignored)” by Jamaal May

I used to bury plum pits between houses. Buried
bits of wire there too. Used to bury matches
but nothing ever burned and nothing ever thrived
so I set fire to a mattress, disassembled a stereo,
attacked flies with a water pistol, and drowned ants
in perfume. I pierced my eyebrow, inserted
a stainless steel bar, traded that for a scar in a melee, pressed
tongue to nipple in a well-lit parking lot, swerved
into traffic while unbuttoning my shirt—
                                                                  There is a woman
waiting for me to marry her or forget her name
forever—whichever loosens the ribbons from her hair.
I fill the bathtub for an enemy, lick the earlobe
of my nemesis. I try to dance like firelight
without setting anyone ablaze. I am leaning over
the railing of a bridge, seeing my face shimmer
on the river below—it’s everywhere now—
                                                                  Look for me
in scattered windshield beneath an overpass,
on the sculpture of a man with metal skin grafts,
in patterns on mud-draggled wood, feathers
circling leaves in rainwater—look. Even the blade
of a knife holds my quickly fading likeness
while I run out of ways to say I am here.

This poem appeared in Indiana Review 32.2, Winter 2010.

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Intense Blue 5x7

Jamaal May is the author of Hum (Alice James Books, 2013) and The Big Book of Exit Strategies (Alice James Books, 2016). Hum received several honors including a Lannan Foundation grant and American Library Association’s Notable Book Award. Other honors include a Spirit of Detroit Award, the Wood Prize from POETRY, and a fellowship from the Civitella Ranieri Foundation in Italy. Jamaal’s poetry explores the spaces between opposites to render a sonically rich argument for the interconnectivity of people as well as the worlds they inhabit. From Hamtramck and Detroit he co-directs Organic Weapon Arts with Tarfia Faizullah.

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