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

Honeyfish

The catch is so fresh, each bite is blue—
the sea still in it, and settling on your tongue

like prayer. This is what it means to eat,
you think, to abandon utensils for the grace

of fingers, to hold flesh against flesh,
hands slick with what will become

inseparable from your own thrumming
body. As a child, you loved fry dry,

the small fish you ate whole, and imagined
them swimming in you, your belly

full as an ocean. Now you know better—
that nothing consumed lives on as before.

When the bone, thin as a wish,
lodges itself in the pink flesh of your mouth,

refuses offerings of bread or water,
becomes an ache that will not be moved,

you understand: this is what it means
to be a body—that what is taken in

takes root in ways beyond your choosing—
a single bite and you carry the ocean in your throat.

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. 

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

Blue

The instant you plan to put your head into the water, your mother’s voice bells in
your skull don’t go getting on wild in the water, eh. They say at 32 you begin to
become your mother, and not a week past that birthday her admonition pulls your
body back from a juicy plunge into the Aegean’s seductive blue. In your childhood
she refused permission to any outings involving water; you think you a fish, she’d
say, and my heart can’t handle bad news. A woman now, you know the force she
feared, the way water can draw you out; how easy it is to go and go, and never miss
the earth beneath your feet until you need it; how sometimes, it gives you no way
back. You dive in anyway, the way she always has, headfirst and with a whoop of
glee. You know, too, what she loved about the sea—how it is impossible to be
burdened in it, how it can strip the body down to its purest, most joyful self. She
knew the salt kiss cravings in you: when you have to go, I will take you. You swim
out now, her voice looped around you like a lifesaver. There is nowhere you can go
that it will not find you.

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. 

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. 

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

Elegy for a Fish-as-Weathervane

Fine Arts Work Center, Provincetown, MA

You were meant for a different blue,
you cod, mackerel, trout, or just idea
of fish, hoisted up, spiked through
the center to test, of all things, air.

Beached in sky, sun beaten, tarnished,
a shred of cloud caught in your gasping
mouth, your turning an illusion of motion
so close to the one for which you were born.

No schools for you there, in that lonely,
elevated place, only its perpetual piercing—
you alien among birds with your useless gills,
useless fins. Caught, darling. Trophy. Stranded

so close to God, you spin in the place
where prayers rise, where dreams of home
take wind and take hold of you like hooks
yanking you—now this way, now that.

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. 

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

Post-Verdict Renga

For Trayvon

Provincetown, MA


Heat. Bodies gleaming with sweat and sun. Day pressing itself against everything:
unforgiving. I am walking down this street thinking of another walk in another city,
of a boy who never makes it home. I, too, am armed with thirst and a craving for
sweetness; I, too, wear his brown skin and do not belong here, to this city of leisure
and narrow streets. Fear passes through me, a phantom, and is gone. Overhead, flags
flutter in the thick, salty air. Not guilty, they say. Not guilty. Not guilty. Not guilty.
Not guilty. Not guilty.

Beginning is red—
a door, a car, the bowed lips,
a nameless flower.
*
I have so few names for things
here, I fall into silence.
Two men, black as God,
their shirts golden as morning.
No words between us.
*
So much passes in the glance
that the throat cannot muster.
Three headless torsos
in a store window. A light
trick makes men of them.
*
In this city of flesh, you
can almost forget the ghosts

Fat daylilies crown
long green stalks, their orange heads
the color of grief.
*
No candlelight vigils here:
only the living, living.
He walks, oak brown, bald,
belly like a commandment—
I am here: make way
*
Nothing I say will save you,
but how can I say nothing?
Thick black curls cut close,
buttoned black shirt. Caramel face
diamonded with sweat.
*
a dark, ageless face
wise and innocent as earth—
how have you survived?

I can’t stop counting
the bodies that look like yours:
five this whole morning.
*
I can’t say if this matters,
just that I saw, I did see

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.