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.