Kelly X is an Emily Dickinson with Wifi from Baltimore, Maryland. Kelly is a Sagittarius who loves kettle dill pickle chips, arugula and black coffee. She co-curates and co-hosts Tender FM, a monthly performance night in Baltimore. Def one of those people who should’ve probably known better but did it anyway. Please forward chain mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This poem was awarded the 2018 Peach Gold in Poetry by guest judge Morgan Parker.
What I love about this poem is it's full, exciting, vernacular, exploratory, meandering, and strange. In fact, at first I wasn't sure what to make of it. But I'm excited about this poet's potential, and I respect this poem's playful ambition. What won me over was the way dissonant themes blurred and overlapped, as in: "I should beg God for forgiveness to get to heaven / so I can ask my dead dad his preexisting conditions"; the humor of "God’s on that Milky Way extra twee shit, of course." against the strange language of lines like "I’m both wretch and Jupiter-ruled" and "you awake to a neon / sign outside of the gate that says “WE BUY GOLD.”'
by Kelly X
To Sister Mary Catherine’s disdain
I tell her I am praying for magic.
I am praying to wake up Jubilee
Shooting fireworks from my painted fingers.
Or to wake up on the set of The WB and be told
That in every generation there is black girl magic
And I’m the chosen one; I’ll punch an undead President,
I’ll open the Hellmouth and get reparations.
I want the wind to blow, my eyes to glow!
I’ve been asking God to deliver me
by letting me move shit with my mind.
God should let me undo time, hands on my skin.
Sister Mary Catherine says,
I should only ask God
for the things I need like Grace.
I need God to make me a breathless constellation,
a weeping tree. Like I’m paging God in 1998,
gas me up like the North Star.
I want more rings than an old Oak.
Sister Mary Catherine says,
I can’t be a poltergeist when I grow up.
I should beg God for forgiveness to get to heaven
so I can ask my dead dad his preexisting conditions;
if besides the stroke, he ever loved my mother.
She says, there’s no such things as ghosts
but I ask her what then of the doors that open at night,
the thumbprints that return no matter how I wash--
Years later I am listing my
family history and learning
I’m predisposed to diabetes and
being haunted. Yet it’s nurture, not nature
that’s got me apologizing for everthing--
I’m so sorry for the tectonic plates
shifting and the lack of rain in California.
Give me Grace to superbloom next year, God.
Years later, I tell T----
the only nature poem
I ever wrote was when
I begged God to make me
a tall tree in a cement city
and awake my sisters little birds.
Passio Christi, conforta me.
O bone Jesu, exaudi me.
Told you years ago I did not believe in God.
I lied because what I meant was I am tired.
I lied because, yes, I want to believe in star charts
and gospels. I’m both wretch and Jupiter-ruled.
two-fish fry, Janus-faced, blemished;
Look. I want God to turn their location on.
I want to soft-block God.
I want God to follow me back anyways.
Let me meet God.
I’ve heard when you meet
God pulls you close;
You’re the missing 9th rib.
God holds you at the Gate.
God smells of chlorine, vetiver and burning beeswax.
God requests before everything
all the big decisions
you slow dance on the threshold of Judgment and Grace.
There’s a rat pack just for you:
Billie, Minnie, and Aaliyah in harmony
begging you to save the last dance for them.
They’ve got flowers in their hair
and you’ve got a fresh shape-up
and a clean lavender shirt.
There are beautiful lights, of course.
God’s on that Milky Way extra twee shit, of course.
God’s holding you at the threshold and says you’ll always
belong regardless of where you’re going and on the
lapel of their violet crushed velvet suit is a button that says
“YOU ARE HERE”
You’re in a coffin and your body is decomposing.
The real hell is you can never return to the Earth because
we spent a lot of money on a box that will
It’s God who calls the grave robbers
and tells them about your four Gold teeth and 24K
name plate. God is the one who has them
dig you up to pull teeth from a mouth
that will never again holler “Lift Every Voice and Sing”
They’ll pull off the perfectly polished shoes that once
perfectly shuffled across linoleum to
“Square Biz” with little girls in tow, in a kitchenette in South East.
Our braids, shells and beads
rattling with each pirouette, each giggle
like inner city Medusas.
The robbers will pull you out of your best
suit and leave you naked limb twisted, open casket.
This seems like bad news
but as worm kisses your skin
and it’s death’s true kiss and so you awake to a neon
sign outside of the gate that says “WE BUY GOLD”
and $6 chicken box + fries + coke (extra mambo sauce.)
In saecula saeculorum.