Two Poems

By Quenton Baker

I first met Quenton Baker in La Conner, Washington when I attended a reading in an art gallery as a part of the Skagit River Poetry Festival. Quenton’s work was riveting. When he stood to read in his low melodic voice, the energy in the entire room shifted. His poems were a mix of high lyric and musicality with a powerful narrative and a deep intelligence that ignited the page and the audience. It’s a rare gift to discover a poet whose work makes you want to reexamine your own poetry, and make sure you’re twisting the knife in the right places, make sure you’re hitting all the high notes. His work does that for me. It brings me back to my own impulse for writing and makes me want to be better. You can sense that he’s a true artist, that it’s not only the page that excites him, but a way of looking at the world with a lens that is both capable of leaning into the microcosm and capable of singing about what is ever expanding in all of us. Quenton Baker is a phenom and deserves the ear of our nation.

Ada Limón, winner of National Book Critics Circle award for poetry and current Guggenheim Fellow

 

 

still
yet we anthem toward altar

under such ambulatory pressure
rhythm should be rendered impossible

 

the whip burns in effigy of wound
lanterns at our hip
            so our steps warn the dusk

 

our nightmares fragment         into law
redolent phylactery of shell and discard
the world attuned to the fragrance
            of overfed levee as statute
            of preteen        warded to the current

 

hull anthology
shattered through our entanglement
under red moon/chaste lightning

 

we de-legislate latitude
envelop border in kink and curve
collapse the lungs to unlatch the hold
our breath         bends        all barracoon skyward

 

*

 

the coffle           grottos the blood
thrum language pumped subterranean
flesh made lexical
                         de-housed from fieldstone

 

we demand the earth return us

 

in the grammar         of bone-spitting oak
in the grammar         of limb-chewing wave
irrupt the firing pin
collapse trigger until it resembles an unlit

waning

 

an       unhitched                  wailing

 

we will not modulate or vary the tone
a suturing shout
in un-unison
broad stalactite of threat and futurity

 

the dirt is a dialect

 

we drip                 underneath

Quenton Baker is a poet, educator, and Cave Canem fellow. His current focus is black interiority and the afterlife of slavery. His work has appeared in The Offing, Jubilat, Vinyl, The Rumpus and elsewhere.