Written during the Obama era, Tamiko Beyer’s poem serves as a painful reminder of how “horde white-hot power” causes “rage that liquefies/ our hearts, whole communities,” regardless of our president’s skin color. Take a look at “As if balanced on light” and listen to Beyer read her poem below.

Tamiko Beyer reads “As if balanced on light.”

As if balanced on light

By Tamiko Beyer


Even dying, sand-speckled, drying, jellyfish can sting— their streaming arms

non-ambulatory and toxic. Strange creatures with no blood. Knowing we were about to dive

into the water, we did not linger to gaze on their gelatinous bodies shimmering on the New England beach.

I was thick on your fingers. We swam through the deep, Emerged to a seagull pulling flesh

from shattered shell: red, salty, slick.


Who puts automatic weapons in the hands of cops? Who witnesses the killing

of black teenage boys? Generations and generations. Shot up in a cop car, shot up on the corner.

A rage that liquefies our hearts, whole communities spilling into the streets, drenched.

The president sends in the national guard. His skin not white like the others, but the papers

he signs just as white, bloodless. Not shot up on the corner,

followed by secret service. Hand to system strategizing sieges. Horde white-hot power.


When I was a child, so many queer men died their bodies porous

to the world’s infections. Cankers blistering on their skin, muscles shrinking to bone.

A societal seizure of unseeing, we turned from sweat-soaked sheets

to skating rinks. The men contagious and unknowing burrowed into each other’s bodies,

alive with sex. I did not know then they were kin.


Later, in the water, a welt on my forearm, a sting. Later, in bed, your teeth on my skin.

What to do with this desperate desire to reconcile our yearnings

and our bloodshed? The thief that makes us long for something greater than ourselves.

All night long we were bruised and culpable, responsible and willfully ignorant. I give you this— the only thing to offer up:

my body splayed, its stalwart, bloody sound.

Tamiko Beyer is the author of “We Come Elemental” (Alice James Books, 2013) and “bough breaks” (Meritage Press, 2011). Her poems have appeared in The Denver Quarterly, Dusie and The Volta.

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