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.
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.