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Unterberg Poetry Center

Bernard Ferguson

2019 Discovery

Bernard Ferguson is a Bahamian immigrant poet, an MFA candidate at NYU, a Writers in the Public Schools fellow and an Assistant Editor at Washington Square Review. He is the winner of the 2019 Hurston/Wright College Writers Award, the 2019 Nâzım Hikmet Poetry Prize and an Adroit Journal Gregory Djanikian Scholar. His work is published or forthcoming in The Paris Review, The Common, SLICE Magazine, Pinwheel, Winter Tangerine and Best New Poets 2017. Visit him at
The poem and manuscript below were included in the printed program of the 2019 Discovery Winners’ Reading. “my coworker says be productive or be deported” was first published by the Nâzım Hikmet Poetry Festival.

  • my coworker says be productive or be deported

    after June Jordan

    & there i was, minding my own business
    like mama had always warned

    me, frozen with surrender before the line
    the tulips, rising & ransacking the block

    with their beauty
    a bouquet of them

    mouths agape & leaning
    into the sidewalk, pressing outward

    in all manners of direction but for one
    comrade whose petals had not yet unraveled

    despite the gold & the beckoning
    bees & the block’s incessant desire

    the flower holding its soft limbs
    to itself before offering them to our living

    biding time & nectar next to what must have been
    a friend, a show off, whose many tongues

    were splayed & hinting
    at what might happen if the lips

    were to part & drink
    the bounty on the wind today & there,

    on the ground, if you were
    to lay close to the stubborn thing

    & its single foot, you would see its face
    pushed against the blue sky, its small fortune

    leaning with the clouds
    & leaning toward me,

    there, where i was
    considering the far-flung blue & the flower

    & the small border between
    tending to what is most mine

    my business, for hours & hours
    in stillness, listening

    for the sound of the few lips
    of the tight lipped tulip

    pulling apart

  • Manuscript

From the Winners’ Reading: “When a Grave Swells,” by Bernard Ferguson

Watch the 2019 Winners’ Reading.