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Inspired by this year’s 400th anniversary Shakespeare celebrations, #wordswelivein explores the words we encounter every day and the stories they tell about our lives and communities. The initiative comes to life through live events, social media and text-and-image works by writers from around the world.

Find out how to participate in #wordswelivein.

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EAT ME: A Metamorphosis

from dead end into underground railroad just add
vowels and massage your shredded money
with lemon juice and salt

it will still taste like kale but the next line
of letters might open up the machine
to reveal men behind the screen

admiring in a mirror their robot brains
like our own looking to see in corrugated
metal a shiny reflection

our faces before we were born

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maddening, nasturtium, whatever-flower, anger

April—I am free enough from the dirt-
slobbered, cold-rain, thin-spined-trees winter

to wear the free rags I like—the ones that parade
the hairy bulge of my belly—I am free

to trample the thousand nameless flowers
in my white-columned small town—a leaping

squirrel extinguishes suddenly in the roadway
near the projects near my own house—is

my greatest fear becoming a “good” white
person though I am not white—worse

fears exist then, worse fears and worse
.....there is running water in my house

but the guilt of privilege bores me, the tiptoe-
around useless privileged guilt

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[i reserve the right to feel]

i reserve the right to feel
nothing. i keep for myself
myself. i wanted so many
things. propped. top shelf.
i find my feet. they sink. & i cannot
travel. i have not touched a body
like me. i release my feeling of rights.
nothing of myself like me.

don't ask me how i'm feeling.
it's not a fair question.
incrementally, you are american.

are a schedule of trash and debil-
atory fire. a sad face. the kind
that slips off when
wet. half of a whole mountain.

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[i dullard dot seem a sad toy]

i dullard dot seem a sad toy
am the happiest i have been
forever! in fact am a steep joy
marinade… pruned jasmine
boba black are my fingerprints.
carefree to avoid thy thighs & not
lick (wowza!!) electro fences.
so seems i the dense dot?
I have lost not one drop this year
more far than my trust for man's
words & slurs. SO, is it spiced clear
to glean in the field sits wo man chan
securely undeported, wrung-through
cheering generations, incomprehensibly unto?

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i pissed on a red christmas

tree, dead / the day after
a country tried
deporting my family. and me

squat in the dunes, blessed
the granular earth, and made
the sound of crying – teemingly, unfished
in the broad Atlantic mouth.

i have always loved the ocean     i love it
for its size it keeps itself hidden

from the interior of no imagining
saltwater is one long sentence
saying your pain is a chuckle
compared to how I’ve held a billion glass lives.
I gave no consent to what would and wouldn’t live.

To Build

A mile from this bed / a townhouse boy salted and packed
with cousins on Ellery / Sicilians like bricks / Migration as planting
seeds in the soil cement poured on top / A lifetime / and wife /
an explosion / clamped tongue of an orphan / A hollow / then scattering
but I don’t even know any names of those kin / A procession / new status as white
a pouring / a flight / or vocation / to assimilate is to erode / then return / with a plan
to destroy by amnesia / and call it success / A razing / This marriage / its status / a scorpion
in the bedsheets and a percolator on repeat / the hollowing between ribs / a directed
explosion / no structure to rest under / or inside of / To rest is to ruin / on purpose

Nature bound

in the wreck of pristine paradise,
dawn muscled through stone and moss
beneath a channeled redwood.
a sign proclaimed that this was true.

the drought still dusted the light,
that which the trees in their sister circle splayed with wide fingers.

winds from the grove perked arm
hairs high on tiny hills ...
but I never heard what whispered there.

A construction site nearby,
abandoned for the day,
yawned near the sacred.
Fences, locks, chains.
Through metal-sharp edges,
I could almost touch a bed
of shed needles,
but not quite.