sam sax


when we speak
we sing

try to repeat a phrase 
& not find music

the monotonic tongue too
is an exercise in sound
fire, a kind of salve
or slave to the mouth

the child prophet who burned
his tongue & still led his people
out of bondage

or another apocryphal story,
the man in chains who reads 
the dictionary & bursts into flames

perfected pitch – divined improvidence
polemic & polytechnic – the politics
of noise 
even the phrase ‘speech impediment’
carries its own kind music. even the phrase ‘warfare’
even ‘murder’
            its marauding baggage
            its stuttering thunderous corpse

oh sound, the simple tonal space
            between play & plate glass
            between bacchius & battle-axe

if only my people realized
we haven’t been promised
a homeland, rather, a song.
that jerusalem isn’t a place,
merely a series of sounds
that can written down
& taken anywhere.


odysseus strangled a man in the belly
of a wood horse who thought he heard
his wife screaming, the french resistance
fed infants opiate laced breast milk,
josh & i held each other trembling
below the stairs
as my brother & his friends rampaged
through the house, liquor rampaging
through them. silence is what comes
at the end of all our loud suffering
or during it. the film does not beg
the organ’s accompaniment.
my first time for money i was so quiet
he could hear coins falling inside me.
might have mistaken my blood
for a symbol :: crashing.
what i’m arguing for is the impermanence
of beauty – hand unstuffing the carcass

of sawdust – when my body is in the ground
decomposing & disgusting,

who will pay to sleep with me then?


Sam Sax is a fellow at The Michener Center for Writers & the associate poetry editor for Bat City Review. He’s the two time Bay Area Grand Slam Champion & author of the chapbooks, A Guide to Undressing Your Monsters (Button Poetry, 2014), and sad boy / detective (winner of the 2014 Black River Chapbook Prize). His poems have been published or are forthcoming from Boston Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Minnesota Review, The Normal School, Rattle, Vinyl, & other journals.