Two Poems by Christian J. Collier

Rack & Ruin

Because of age, or Ketel One, or both,
there are moments to hold onto                      I forget. Sometimes,
I fear my memory, surrendering                     my loves’ blood-filled faces.

                                                            I keep googling names & counting obituaries.
I don’t know how long
I’ll be able to lure the bass from my throat & speak of the old days,           how long

any day survives         without witness.
I know how easily
time becomes a falcon whose beak spears a head

                                                            to eat the husks of those residing inside.
I cross myself before bed & stumble over my prayers           to keep whole.
I listen hard & hear my organs thinning,                    failing.

I’m trying to learn to walk with my gaps now,
                                    while everything is familiar to the bronze of my eyes.
                                                                                    To brace from what could come,

I drink the evening’s shapes—make of each a black diamond I let rest
                                    on the bowed deck of my gut.
To keep another season from sawing through me,

I bid my bands of muscle to rescue me from time.


Dear Byron

                 In the burning South we called home,
the inferno fed on snow & freeze.
After the short bones broke in my right foot,
you & I danced with two blonde, drunk women in front of a dimmed alley
where we saw one wispy man kneel & swallow another.

We fellowshipped in the late night,
Jose Cuervo Gold glowing in our guts
in the city where we were first called niggers.

We became kings then.
Do you remember our anointing?

Do you remember? White diamonds dove from above.
We wore them proudly on our cedared skin. 

In the frost-strewn air our wheat-winged ancestors paid for,
seventeen lightning bugs formed tilted, flashing crowns
around our oiled scalps. The gift our buried always yearned to taste, upon us
on this brutal earth—a tiny bundle of hours where nothing wanted us slain.

Remember how it felt to be held & revel in all that good feeling?
Remember how long we combed ashes from our hides
                                                          when it died out & let us go?

Christian J. Collier is a Black, Southern writer, arts organizer, and teaching artist who resides in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He is the author of Greater Ghost (Four Way Books, 2024), and the chapbook The Gleaming of the Blade, the 2021 Editors’ Selection from Bull City Press. His works have appeared in December, North American Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, The Michigan Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. A 2015 Loft Spoken Word Immersion Fellow, he is also the winner of the 2022 Porch Prize in Poetry and the 2020 ProForma Contest from Grist Journal.