The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Honeyfish by Lauren K. Alleyne

Self-Portrait with Burning Crosses

Dubuque, IA. April, 2016.

There isn’t enough water
to make a mirror,
enough light to give back
the faces wearing night
like armor. I’ve got
nothing to hold on to
in this white ass town
with its white ass worries
where someone decides
to ignite America
into some again-burning
greatness. I’m in the capital
talking poetry and witness
when I read the news
and try to put out the flames
that crawl across my skin,
forget it. But my tongue tastes
like ash. My hands wisp into smoke,
hold nothing but history. Fury
explodes bright and without
mercy: I become the burning.

Who struck the match? Who
pulled out this white hood,
this fiery robe? A student?
That woman in the bank,
with glasses and frosted hair?
The brown-toothed old man
who shuffles down main street
every morning at eight?
Was it the surly couple
across the street or the one
who smiles wide and distant
at once? Was it a lone wolf
or a gang of pimpled teenage boys
regurgitating the diet of Fox news
and hate they’d been fed their whole lives?

I’m a woman with skin
that summons crosses and flame.
Which is to say I am always burning.
Which is to say I do not have enough
tears to put myself out.

This selection comes from the book, Honeyfish, available from New Issues Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Natalie Giarratano.

LAUREN K. ALLEYNE is the author of two collections of poetry, Difficult Fruit (Peepal Tree Press 2014), and Honeyfish (New Issues & Peepal Tree, 2019). Her work has appeared in numerous publications including the New York Times, The Atlantic, Ms. Muse, Women’s Studies Quarterly, Interviewing the Caribbean, and the Crab Orchard Review. Recent honors for her work include a 2017 Philip Freund Alumni Prize for Excellence in Publishing (Cornell University), the 2016 Split This Rock Poetry Prize, and a Picador Guest Professorship in Literature (University of Leipzig, Germany, 2015). She is currently the assistant director of the Furious Flower Poetry Center and an associate professor of English at James Madison University. Twitter Handle: @poetLKA

Natalie Giarratano is the author of Big Thicket Blues (Sundress Publications, 2017) and Leaving Clean, winner of the 2013 Liam Rector First Book Prize in Poetry (Briery Creek Press, 2013). Her poems have appeared in Beltway PoetryTupelo Quarterly, Tinderbox, and American Literary Review, among others. She edits and lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, with her partner and daughter and is the city’s poet laureate. 


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