Thomas Sayers Ellis, “Audience”


Imagine a door, a door
with a sign on it, a sign that excludes you.
Not a symbol of you,
but the real birth you: erased, gone.

Through the door,
something you think you want,
something you were told was in books,
a false wholeness: Europe.

And if you are lucky… a seat on one
of its not so murderous seas,
surrounded by listeners
who are “kind of” open.

So you go, alone in the mind, often,
despite the sign on the door
and the signs inside,
and you never come back.

You are rewarded for this, in public,
and accepted onto
their realm of podiums.
Disliked, by a few, too.

Skin, Inc. is the long-awaited second collection from Thomas Sayers Ellis. He describes it as “identity repair poems,” elaborating for Publishers Weekly: “The ‘publishable’ American poem seems to have skipped over a certain amount of honesty, boldness, and activism in the name of ‘craft.’ An identity repair poem is one that acknowledges that many of the tools in the ‘taught toolbox’ need cultural improving… If there’s an ideal reader, I guess it would be someone—black, yellow, white or red—interested in literary time travel, so that we don’t end up here again in a place where there hasn’t been an Asian or Latino or Native American poet laureate.”

Skin, Inc. also includes “Race Change Operation” (from the Split This Rock blog). And, in 2005, I hosted Ellis in conversation with Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, during which he showed us an excerpt of the poem “The Return of Colored Only.”

29 September 2010 | poetry |