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When Nation shook her hand

she smelled the spoiled plunder.

Which alliance is not made of glass?

Which sacrifice is not a beloved?

The churches are wearing black mirrors

on their faces and somewhere the hounds

found a fugitive hiding in the open.

Nothing was uttered.

The hunted and the hunters

had been there before.

Her body is a jurisprudence of limits.

Viscous. Rootless.

Nation offered to take refuge in the yoke of her wounds

in exchange for water.

Everything Nation say sounds like a deal.

The ratio of excess to yield

are all the loves she’s wrapped in condoms

and swallowed

to bring across the border.

What of broken?

What of surrender?

What is the consistency of hollow?

The illusion of her body is a found poem.

The annexation of her land

was the breaking.



Un-break them,

these mausoleums of promises,

this ceremony of gestures.

In this waking dream of fangs, a foreign animal

somewhere trembles.

Which tunnel, which void, which emigrant?

I am her. And I

too want to swallow the disquieting,

the magisterial alive. Un-cage

my raven, my zaftig, my keeper of corpses.

Allow her to speak her bone language.

Lose the word patriotism. Divide it

into a wall of dolls.

Give me back my preverbal wisdom.

In this cunning quake of words

let me be unborn.


JAMAICA BALDWIN’s first book, Bone Language, will be published by YesYes Booksin 2023. Her work has appeared in World Literature Today, Guernica, The Missouri Review, and Ruminate, among others. She is a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow and winner of the 2021 RHINO Poetry Editor’s Prize. Jamaica is currently pursuing her PhD in English at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln with a focus on poetry and Women’s and Gender Studies.


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