Two Poems

Poetry / CM Burroughs

:: To Keep a Dialogue ::

She asks if my nipples are pink. During which my body arrives to barter, 
shifts from hand to hand. I give what egg I have and break into a jigger of 

Pull charred wick with my fingers then fingers to my mouth. My blackened 
tongue. Narratives for consumption marked by a heedless draw toward 
currants. I can’t know it yet, but I will guard my arc and charter. A bird will 
sing me thus. I will be so shearing. 

Thirsted to and paraded from. Often, I give my form to be made. Gall and 
intention when turning metal in my mouth. My saliva threading its marrow.
I am filled with songdark and ask to be choked. Become hungered and talk
about it for days. My feeling I am owed my little dark. 


:: When I Am Looking Mean and Impressive ::

I kiss it, eat it up. Tastes like nothing. I could do forever. Iron enjoys a hang
~ how I know I’m having myself. “Bind,” a slippery trick, history, holdings, 
so even while I’m doing it—erasure, erasure “she keeps on passin,” sampling
myself, as course, to black tie, black bottom, black box, black-eyed, black ass.
Up and aint I aint I aint I aint I anti- ant I anih-



From the writer

:: Account ::

I composed these poems at a time when I was trying to answer questions about desire and what desire could enact in the female body. These questions, as you will understand by reading the poems, relate to arousal and approach ideas of power between the I and the Other. These concepts are tightly wound within lyric verse, but the vacillation between certainty and uncertainty of what the speaker wants, what she can control versus what controls her, is palpable. The verbs are one signal of this, as in the first stanza of “To Keep a Dialogue” we have moments including: “ask,” “arrives,” “give,” and “break.” Through to its end, “To Keep a Dialogue” presents the speaker in positions of negotiation, and none that is simply resolved.

While “To Keep a Dialogue” demonstrates a speaker who wavers between her power and a passive or active relinquishment of that power, the second poem relishes in gratifying desire. This speaker wears her desire, which is self-directed and self-satisfying, and this quality enables her to gaze widely at her body as historical/object/black/blackened/erasured. Just now, I feel somewhat devilish gathering this into five lines, but this is the kind of poem from which my most captivating speakers grow. My work needs this speaker’s attitude and self-searched cockiness as much as it needs a speaker in flux between overwhelm and want.


CM Burroughs is Assistant Professor of Poetry at Columbia College Chicago,
and the author of The Vital System from Tupelo Press (2012). Burroughs has been awarded fellowships from Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony, and the Cave Canem Foundation. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Best American Experimental Writing, Court Green, jubilat, Ploughshares, and VOLT. Burroughs is a graduate of Sweet Briar College and the MFA program at the University of Pittsburgh.