We Believe in Regarding the Nature of Being by Dawn Lundy Martin

BOMB 134 Winter 2016
Bomb 134 cover

The Rinse. Because a branch bent in a V toward sun / whereas legitimacy of this witness / ing / Lacan’s first, core loss and the recognition of one’s self / my head into lamb’s breath / black breath could be a noticing of marking or slashing/ how am I gonna be your dog if you keep asking me questions? / I could just crawl around with my tongue hanging out. Would you like that? / in Kindergarten a girl called me / ******* / a smell of doctoring / witch hazel on a girl’s face / all souls are lost, I know this / if I crawled on the floor might feel like home / grate upon jagged grate / can you feel that? / as if were lung stone / when we say breathing or / air


Winter. To trace a life is to trace nothing at all but accumulation of events which themselves are not things / mother, where are you? / what questions burn the edges of your heart? / I see the wrought iron cage you’ve spent so many years carving / careful attention to one’s own insignificance in God’s hands / God’s little bird / pale day / crest over walk into leaves mother in her house of leaks / roof tumble / in haze of light /shackle light / what in the world is this missing? / what exists in the deep ways of broken things? /


Having been always (before and after everything), without limits of time, as if in existence without attachment, untethered from happenings rooted to temporality.

The body is made of many arches and windows. Enter this structure, the entrances to the many houses of god.

And, yet, each morning a fireheart grief in the body coming out of sleep. The listening to the smoke as it fills and weeps inside the chest, choking strength out hands weighted, dangling. We wonder where else it lives before it fills the body up. We assume it comes inside through the hole that promises invasion.

This layering of forms pushes the body toward abstraction. We have stolen madness from the white people. An Asian white man will call us a crazy bitch in a text. But we have long done been free. Coffee is brought to our body bedside on a silver tray. We are unrepresentable. We sip into the griefmouth.


They said there are rules to attend to and washing and wearing of the jumpsuit, which is the color of the walls in my childhood room.

The owl in our mouths cannot say oust or out.

The crying elephant. The crying elephant.

The boy says, “I was completely depleted of vitamin D and drank Purell hand sanitizer and instant Kool-Aid just to feel something.”

The way of Athena, her wolves at her feet.


You roll over, catch your persistent breath. The minutia of a hello. The old people don’t like it but we like it because we live there as our selves enacting imprint selfhood.

The record of our worst things. To heave into a hole too small for a body.

How the promise is destroyed. God is dead. Life goes on. All the small things like dust. The big things like starving.

I’m going to tell you now of the smallest flower. It’s called Wolffia globosa or Water-meal and it’s green. It floats on the water in clusters—you’ve seen it—but if you have a problem looking at certain textures, you might get sick looking up close. It’s edible especially in Asia.

Dawn Lundy Martin is the author of three books of poetry and three chapbooks. Her latest collection is Life in a Box Is a Pretty Life (Nightboat Books, 2015). Associate professor in the English department at the University of Pittsburgh, Martin is a member of the three-person performance group Black Took Collective. She is also a member of the global artist collective HOWDOYOUSAYYAMINAFRICAN?, the group that withdrew its work from the 2014 Whitney Biennial to protest the museum’s racially biased curatorial practices. Martin is currently working on a hybrid memoir, a tiny bit of which appears as the essay “The Long Road to Angela Davis’s Library,” published in the December 2014 New Yorker magazine. Her next book of poems, Good Stock, will be published by Coffee House Press in 2016.

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“I don’t accept the idea of my history as tragic.”

Originally published in

BOMB 134, Winter 2016

Featuring interviews with Jem Cohen, Tom Burr, Maylis de Karengal, Portia Zvavahera, SO - IL, Sarah Ruden, Michael St. John, Stephen Collier, Mayo Thompson.

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