Poetry We Admire: Cruelty

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The declared cruelest month, National Poetry Month, has arrived. Here are four new poems we admire hitting magazines that speak to the vastness of cruelty, featuring work from Eloisa Emezcua in POETRY, George Abraham in Mizna, Aria Aber in The Adroit Journal, and Stevie Edwards in The Journal.


 

 

because you kiss the parts of my body I hate most

because you can love someone & not remember their birthday

because sometimes I want the wind & it is impossible

 

from “I Haven’t Masturbated in Five Days for Fear of Crying

by Eloisa Amezcua in POETRY

 

Love is cruel. Distance is cruel. Inhabiting a body is cruel. Eloisa Amezcua’s “I Haven’t Masturbated in Five Days for Fear of Crying” touches on all of that with its anaphora of “because”, each line a sort of desire. A perfect poem for when we are afraid an attempt to self-soothe will cause us to shatter—for when wanting itself both hurts and comforts.


 

 

in no language — FREE PALESTINE will write poems of olive

tree & checkpoint

& no Free Palestine to be found — FREE PALESTINE will name

the violence

 

from “ars poetica in which every pronoun is a Free Palestine”

by George Abraham in Mizna

 

Cruelty, minus they and we. George Abraham’s “ars poetica in which every pronoun is a Free Palestine,” in the Palestine Issue of Mizna, asks its reader to do the work of determining who to hold responsible. Beyond merely diverting attention from the occupier, Abraham’s poem demands that Free Palestine inhabit the space on the page that would otherwise be used to name an oppressor—each iteration summoning that Free Palestine into the reader’s consciousness and into being.


 

 

I wish I could carry my mother, my life’s true love, toward the mirror.

As if her caravan beauty could save her.

Huddled together like lovers in frost, I watch ants march through her inflamed eye socket, a spectacular procession.

God. Is what we lack a shelter for the fragile to pass through?

Does this refugee camp look like a life to you?

 

from “Asylum

by Aria Aber in The Adroit Journal

 

Aria Aber’s “Asylum” is interrogating positions of power starting from the first line’s unassuming but potent use of “you,” “Even poverty can be glamorous, if you insist.” The speaker’s questioning in lines like “Who wouldn’t be humiliated by a cold room the size of a casket?” calls upon the reader to examine their privilege and perspective in relation to the poem’s “I” and “we.” Aber’s imagery is like camera work, giving us a master shot in “As if caravan beauty could save her” then zooming in to the micro, “I watch ants march through her inflamed eye socket, a spectacular procession.” The image of procession is presented in shifting perspectives, heightening our awareness of our own perception—just one of the ways this masterful poem forces us to look at cruelty.


 

 

…They say not to

do things that hurt, so I settle

 

on a blowjob and feel useful.

This is the new trying

 

from “Another Poem About Pain”

by Stevie Edwards in The Journal

 

Stevie Edwards’ poem in The Journal reminds us of the cruelty of the body, how it’s like life itself—we can heed solid advice, try various methods of avoiding pain, but we don’t have much control. In the end there are “no miracles, only / the steady throb of continuing.” The humor and tone of the poem conclude in—is it optimism? No, hope: another cruelty all its own.

 


Jessica Abughattas

Author’s Website @abugoddess