Quenton Baker: Two Poems

My beautiful picture

I (ɑɪ), pron.

Minor gods tell me I is through,
say it’s run gold medal heat
and won. Now needs icebath/
quiet time.

Minor gods tell me: I is gauche.
We are post-discovery.

Minor gods tell me:
get I out your poem.

i tell minor gods:
your I cast wide shadow.
i was and am that umbra.

Your I authenticated with god blood,
separated by torque from king,
civilized, history. My i popped out
when lights came on
and nigger hit the floor, dropped,
not cool to be held anymore.

When i sit still,
my body breaks apart—
tenderized and torn
by the I i haven’t been.

i in my head infects,
ingrown, pulped against the Mississippi
the killing rage, the silence.
In the worst wreck of my inner space
there is a note: go to the page.
And i return to the i’s like mine:
precious, partially-crushed,
and we lend shape to one another
in this glittering republic.


Love Letter

I live with the dark skin
of pleading just beneath my knee caps.
It spreads, the most loving virus.

Soon, my whole body
will be that rough skin
dry and pointless to touch.
I’ll run from you.

I’ll run
until I see a tall,
white stone building,

climb the stairs
until I reach the uppermost room.
You’ll chase me,
calling my name.
I’ll lock the door
so that you cannot follow.

I will jump,
and on the way down,
my skin will break apart
like an autumn canopy
and we can finally see
what holds it together.


Quenton Baker is a poet and educator from Seattle. His current focus is the fact of blackness in American society. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Jubilat, Vinyl, Apogee, The James Franco Review, and Cura. He is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee and the recipient of the James W. Ray Venture Project award from Artist Trust. He is the author of This Glittering Republic (Willow Books, 2016).


photo credit: The Armatura Press Mainz: Andes via photopin (license)