I Can't Talk about the Trees Without the Blood

I Can't Talk about the Trees Without the Blood

by Tiana Clark


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Winner of the 2017 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize
 For prize-winning poet Tiana Clark, trees will never be just trees. They will also and always be a row of gallows from which Black bodies once swung. This is an image that she cannot escape, but one that she has learned to lean into as she delves into personal and public histories, explicating memories and muses around race, elegy, family, and faith by making and breaking forms as well as probing mythology, literary history, her own ancestry, and, yes, even Rihanna. I Can’t Talk About the Trees without the Blood, because Tiana cannot engage with the physical and psychic landscape of the South without seeing the braided trauma of the broken past—she will always see blood on the leaves.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780822965589
Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
Publication date: 09/18/2018
Series: Pitt Poetry Series
Edition description: 1
Pages: 80
Sales rank: 257,495
Product dimensions: 6.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Tiana Clark is the author of Equilibrium, selected by Afaa Michael Weaver for the 2016 Frost Place Chapbook Competition. She is the winner of the 2017 Furious Flower’s Gwendolyn Brooks Centennial Poetry Prize, 2015 Rattle Poetry Prize, and winner of a 2019 Pushcart Prize. Clark was the recipient of the 2017-2018 Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellowship at the Wisconsin Institute of Creative Writing. Her writing has appeared in or is forthcoming from The New Yorker, Kenyon Review, American Poetry Review, New England Review, Best New Poets 2015, BOAAT, Crab Orchard Review, Thrush, The Journal, and elsewhere. She teaches creative writing at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. 

Read an Excerpt

How to Find the Center of a Circle
x2                                                                  + y2                              = r2            
The first time                I                                   was called a nigger
with those                    red hot                         g sounds,
molten syllables            as searing lassos           around my neck
at a skating rink            they                             like white spiders          
spun around me            silking                          a carousel of hate.
I didn't know                what                             the word meant
but my body                 blackened                    wrong with heat.
Ugly                             marked                        a radius of shameful skin
as two white boys         taunted me                   on roller skates,
they curved                  the loop of                   my circumference. I was
a little girl                     crying                          in the center of a circle—
felt                               my selves                     begin to double.
How                             did I know                    I was different?
I told the teacher           and she                        put them in timeout. 
But what about             the little girl                  rolling away, struck
with the red                  hot g sounds                 ringing fire songs
in her ears?                   You never forget          the first time
you are branded            with iron—                   seared raw, permanent. 

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