Amy King is an American poet, essayist, and activist. She serves on the executive board of VIDA: Woman in Literary Arts. She also moderates the Women’s Poetry Listserv (WOMPO. She also founded and curated the Brooklyn-based reading series, The Stain of Poetry, for four years from 2006 to 2010.
Here are the best poems by King that we think will fill you with magic and love.
Suggested read: Clementine von Radics Makes Poetry Better Than Therapy
Best poems by Amy King
- Butterflies the Gnarled
Into my stomach an explosion of stars
where I rely on myself, my government name, bony letters
of fingers that tunnel your bisected heart, skyward with dark.
Parasites bed my inner lining—
Am I not the rubberized universe?
I am its buffer and get to name things for what they are,
who they serve—what order.
A plural centipede burrows outbound,
crawls the spine of my hand,
tells my pencil to move along, give out lead.
Months of illness do that to a puppet,
gnaw at her strings, place moths on her neighbors,
blend them with gypsies who live the treetops uprooted.
Dare the deliberately happy to butterfly the gnarled roots of life—
That we pass too many pounds of flesh uncut.
Too much genius hermitted in stereo.
The round tables forgetting their bird seed.
Clovers push luck to surround these hollow legs.
Why no windows on the sides of houses?
Why no flames beneath stones that burn?
Why do all minutes lead the blue carp and black eel now?
We’ll be passing through heaven in a split pea shell,
emptied of light, hard as effusive green
ore the blood corrupts daily, within and without.
- The Gilded Zero
Only open homes & woods & pansies’ blue ledges
can lead the zero with his only arms
to embrace himself in open fields for all to gape upon.
He unbuttons steel-gray sheets, a knotted top coat,
bares himself, his hole, a vision
as framed by the marker that is
his body blew and left enclosure intact,
enough to make moviegoers ask,
“Has anyone finished themselves yet?”
I haven’t. I swim the lagoon, take note:
the babies are barely dirty,
their armpits smooth with silky soot
weighted in apartment cycles like
we keep movement in boxes for thunderstorms,
and the railroad leaves a dancing behavior
absorbed by every second thought,
escaping the socket that was his mission,
his body incomplete, to help us
to the maidenhead of Niagara,
a target awakening
the chlorophyll of trees,
their tongues the densest forest
canopy and floor
thigh deep with root rot we sleep on and fold
into growing-whole sheep what becomes of the lot:
night’s zero hour
of what is & what isn’t, till death, not us part.
When I see the two cops laughing
after one of them gets shot
because this is TV and one says
while putting pressure on the wound,
Haha, you’re going to be fine,
and the other says, I know, haha!,
as the ambulance arrives—
I know the men are white.
I think of a clip from the hours
of amateur footage I’ve seen
when another man at an intersection
gets shot, falls, and bleeds from a hole
the viewer knows exists only by the way
the dark red pools by the standing cop’s feet,
gun now holstered, who
yells the audience back to the sidewalk.
I know which one is dying
while black and which one stands by white.
I think this morning about the student
in my class who wrote a free write line
on the video I played
that showed a man pouring water
on his own chest, “…the homoerotic
scene against a white sky” with no other men
present. Who gets to see and who follows
what script? I ask my students.
Whose lines are these and by what hand
are they written?
- Some Pink In Your Color
Did you know I’m in this hospital bed?
I’m not. I’m in the same light you stand in,
much the same way I’m in the waist of your Carolina
watching from the screen across the bed
whose pulse is worn down with an IV to the head.
We are all snow birds atop
the cherry blossoms of August.
Springtime in Washington D.C.
passed too fast, nearly in the flash of Rose
brushing her teeth over the bedpan.
No adrenal gland has known such cortisol,
such heartbreaking I love you O my God,
so many soldiers on the brink of their lives returning!
Are we still talking to the same god?
I can’t imagine the heart anymore
now that it presses my ribs apart,
a balloon of such gravity I ache for stars in a jar,
wasps whose love reminds me of fireflies tonight.
- Wings of Desire
This is what it sounds like outside,
fat geese and guinea hens holding hands.
I am 31, which is very young for my age.
That is enough to realize I’m a pencil that has learned
how to draw the Internet. I explain squiggles
diagramming exactly how I feel and you are drawn to read
in ways you cannot yet. Slow goes the drag
of creation, how what’s within comes to be without,
which is the rhythmic erection of essence.
Life’s little deaths, petite orgasms, as the French nearly said
but never came to. Feathers outstrip the weather
as we stand with binoculars inquiring how
winged creatures can hold their blood to warmth
without a proper insulation system overlaying circulation.
That is, sans fat and simple wooden bones with hair glued on.
Mostly though they pulsate on the horizons of backlit vision,
where we only meet the subways with handshakes,
the rainbow filters of downloaded electronica,
the telephone poles as archaic checkpoints to past cultures.
They don’t have screens to seek their cues in.
We drift from one culture to another and fight
the stitcheries of racism, classism,
anti-Muslim terrorists among us,
with overlaps in the complete dis-ease our bodies
settle into for next to no resistance.
So we create something else.
As in, roughshod moments of fake hate
will position a fluid hello of death rattles
that settle for the injunction of existence and state:
Here am I made manifest by not being you,
by not going in the same unsteady destination,
by not asking the questions or repeating
the paintings that came before me,
by not singing in the register of your bubble baths
as you hug that person close in a wish to outlast
bullets, even as the light leaves your eyes
just a little next time we overlap paths.
So the hens and geese make us think in terms of help
outside, how they flap and move with fat ease in front of trains,
across the chopping block, to the hungry winters of final leviathans,
even as they land just so on the wires above us,
and we go on complaining, murderous, too far out, unspoken.
This is all we have on today’s post on the Best Poems by Amy King. This is, however not an exhaustive list, and if we have missed out on some of your favorites, then please feel free to add them in the comment section below.
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