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Photo Credit:  Wesleyan University Press

the way we live now

Poets and Ambassadors for Conscience

Intensely alive and topical, brimming with unfettered social critique and on-fire language, Evie Shockley’s work is pertinent, spirited, exhilarating poetry that sweeps us past sociopolitical despair, functioning as a fierce, loving bulwark against complacency and violence.

Evie Shockley is the author of three books of poetry, including semiautomatic, a finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She is a professor at Rutgers University.

—C.C.

the way we live now ::

       when the cultivators of corpses are busy seeding

plague across vast acres of the land, choking schools

       and churches in the motley toxins of grief, breeding

virile shoots of violence so soon verdant even fools

       fear to tread in their wake :: when all known tools

of resistance are clutched in the hands of the vile

       like a wilting bouquet, cut from their roots, while
 
the disempowered slice smiles across their own faces

       and hide the wet knives in writhing thickets of hair

for future use :: when breathing in the ashen traces

       of dreams deferred, the detonator’s ticking a queer

echo that amplifies instead of fading :: when there-

       you-are is where-you-were and the sunset groans

into the atlantic, setting blue fire to dark white bones.

This is the fifth installment in The Spectator’s yearlong series featuring leading American poets who address issues of racism, human rights, and exile, among other social themes, in their work. The project is curated by Cyrus Cassells, whose most recent book is Still Life With Children: Selected Poems of Francesc Parcerisas (Stephen F. Austin University Press). the way we live now is used by permission of Evie Shockley and Wesleyan University Press.

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