Saeed Jones: Cracking all of the “names” open

ZP_Gazelle copyright Fishyhylian

Saeed Jones (USA)

Sleeping Arrangement



I’ve decided to let you stay

under our bed, the floor –

not the space between

mattress and metal frame.

Take your hand out

from under my pillow, please.

And take your sheets too.

Drag them under. Make pretend ghosts.

I can’t have you rattling the bed springs

so keep still, keep quiet.

Mistake yourself for shadows.

Learn the lullabies of lint.


I will do right by you:

crumbs brushed off my sheets,

white chocolate chip, I think,

or the corners of crackers.

Count on the occasional dropped grape,

a peach pit with fine yellow hairs,

wet where my tongue has been,

a taste you might remember.

I’ve heard some men can survive

on dust mites alone for weeks at a time.

There’s a magnifying glass on the nightstand,

in case it comes to that.

.     .     .

Obviously, I was meant to be a gazelle


When grandpa growled at the dinner table, I wanted to leap into a sprint.

Gazelles did that sort of thing when startled. They leaped

into mid-air like sprung mousetraps, and then they were nothing

but brown blurs cutting across the plains.

Sometimes the gazelle in me would try to sprint in spite of myself,

but my bow legged and awkward bones kept me at a steady jog.

I would run back and forth across the backyard for hours.

This was Memphis. There were lions behind every oak and chain link fence.

One day, I was running around the backyard, alone as usual,

when a gun went off in the distance. The sound echoed off the house.

I stood in the middle of the yard, perfectly still,

still enough to blend into the grass. It was a rough neighborhood.

Guns seemed to be going off all the time.

When my grandma heard the shot, she rushed outside

and stopped on the porch. For a moment, she looked at me

as if I had been shot. I answered her stare by running off.

.     .     .

Saeed Jones grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, and now lives in New York City.

He has an MFA from Rutgers University in New Jersey.

A 2011 nominee for the Pushcart Prize, Jones comments:

“The question of whether I’m a gay poet who happens to be black or a black poet who happens to be gay, or a poet who argues that such things as “blackness” and “gayness” need not proceed my nouns is just one that I — almost literally — enjoy dancing with. It troubles my waters;  it keeps me questioning my self/selves;  these days all I have are my questions…Or maybe it’s just easier to debate gay/black and black/gay poems rather than to write the poems themselves.  Or maybe I want to crack all of the “names” open!”

.     .     .     .     .