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Hum for the Bolt

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It could of course be silk. Fifty yards or so
of the next closest thing to water to the touch,
or it could just as easily be a shaft of  wood

crumpling a man struck between spaulder and helm.
But now, with the rain making a noisy erasure
of this town, it is the flash that arrives

and leaves at nearly the same moment. It’s what I want
to be in this moment, in this doorway,
because much as I’d love to be the silk-shimmer

against the curve of anyone’s arm,
as brutal and impeccable as it’d be to soar
from a crossbow with a whistle and have a man

switch off upon my arrival, it is nothing
compared to that moment when I eat the dark,
draw shadows in quick strokes across wall

and start a tongue counting
down to thunder. That counting that says,
I am this far. I am this close.

Source: Poetry (April 2013)

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This poem originally appeared in the April 2013 issue of Poetry magazine

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Hum for the Bolt

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  • Jamaal May was born and raised in Detroit. His first book, Hum (2013), won a Beatrice Hawley Award and an American Library Association Notable Book Award and was an NAACP Image Award nominee. Hum explores machines, technology, obsolescence, and community; in an interview, May stated of his first book, “Ultimately, I’m trying to say something about dichotomy, the uneasy spaces between disparate emotions, and by extension, the uneasy spaces between human connection.” May’s poems have appeared widely in journals such as Poetry, New England Review, The Believer, and Best American Poetry 2014. His second collection is The Big Book of Exit Strategies (2016).
     
    May’s honors and awards include a Spirit of Detroit Award, an Indiana Review Poetry Prize, and fellowships from Cave Canem, Bread Loaf,The Frost Place, the Lannan Foundation, and the Stadler Center for Poetry at Bucknell University. He is the 2014–2016 Kenyon Review Fellow at Kenyon College and a...

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