The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Bloodwarm by Taylor Byas


This selection, chosen by guest curator Addie Tsai, is from Bloodwarm by Taylor Byas, released by Variant Lit in 2021. 

The Black Girl Comes To Dinner

We drive into the belly of Alabama,
where God tweezed the highway’s two lanes
down to one, where my stomach
bottoms out on each brakeless fall.

Where God tweezed the highway’s two lanes
with heat, a mirage of water shimmers into view then
bottoms out. On each brakeless fall,
I almost tell you what I’m thinking, my mouth brimming

with heat. A mirage of water shimmers into view then
disappears beneath your tires.
I almost tell you what I’m thinking, my mouth brimming
with blues. Muddy Waters’ croon

disappears beneath your tires.
I want to say I’m nervous beneath a sky brilliant
with blues. Muddy Waters’ croon,
the only loving I’m willing to feel right now, the only loving

I want. To say I’m nervous beneath a sky brilliant
enough to keep me safe means to face what night brings.
The only loving I’m willing to feel right now, the only loving
that will calm me—I need you to tell me I am

enough. To keep me safe means to face what night brings
to the black girl in a sundown town—
that will calm me. I need you to tell me I am
safe. That they will love me, that the night will not gift fire

to the black girl in a sundown town.
Your grandmother folds me into her arms and I try to feel
safe. That they will love me, that the night will not gift fire
are mantras to repeat as

your grandmother folds me into her arms. And I try to feel
grateful. But get home before it’s too late and watch out for the flags
are mantras to repeat as
we drive into the belly of Alabama.


Taylor Byas is a Black Chicago native currently living in Cincinnati, Ohio where she is a PhD student and Yates scholar at the University of Cincinnati, and an Assistant Features Editor for The Rumpus. She was the 1st place winner of both the Poetry Super Highway and the Frontier Poetry Award for New Poets Contests. Her work appears or is forthcoming in New Ohio Review, Borderlands Texas Poetry Review, Glass, Iron Horse Literary Review, Hobart, Frontier Poetry, SWWIM, TriQuarterly, and others. She is represented by Rena Rossner of The Deborah Harris Agency.

Addie Tsai (any/all) is a queer nonbinary artist and writer of color. They collaborated with Dominic Walsh Dance Theater on Victor Frankenstein and Camille Claudel, among others. Addie holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Warren Wilson College and a PhD in Dance from Texas Woman’s University. She is the author of the queer Asian young adult novel Dear TwinUnwieldy Creatures, their adult queer biracial retelling of Frankenstein, is forthcoming from Jaded Ibis Press in 2022. They are the Fiction Co-Editor at Anomaly, Staff Writer at Spectrum South, and Founding Editor & Editor in Chief at just femme & dandy.

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