Oral Exam

He soft-circles his cave
of mouth, pop prickle
of beard there, threads
you in, plays underside
raw with tubed tongue,
sucks febrile current
from your slitted eye.
A violence brusquely
swaps toes and hairline,
sapped muscle slant-
rhymes my weather.
Nervy knot, potentate
of keen collapse, all
and every is linked
to your wild thumb.
I find a sliver of church
in my chest, pray you
burst past verges as he
keens, swallows us both.
Bitch, you musty. You
feral. You newborn gun.





Patricia Smith is the 2021 recipient of the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for Lifetime Achievement, presented by the Poetry Foundation. She is the author of Incendiary Art, winner of the Kingsley Tufts Award, the LA Times Book Prize, and the NAACP Image Award, and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, winner of the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets; and Blood Dazzler, a National Book Award finalist. She is a visiting professor at Princeton University and a distinguished professor for the City University of New York.

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