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Joshua Bennett

Joshua Bennett

Dr. Joshua Bennett is the author of The Sobbing School, Being Property Once Myself: Blackness and the End of Man (Harvard University Press, 2019) and Owed (Penguin, 2020). His work has been published in The New York Times, The Paris Review, Poetry, and elsewhere. He is an Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at Dartmouth College.

Purple City Bird Gang


My lavender tee is tall
as a ballroom gown
but no one dares

to say anything like that
to my face. Durag bisected
by black & Carolina blue

stitching to contrast,
each of my newly purchased
Air Force Ones

shimmering white
as opportunity.
Against the pull

of crass familiarity
& my parents' warnings
about the historical

dangers of the D train,
I'm posted up
on the Lower East Side,

dead set on buying
my first album without
supervision or shame.

The front cover reads
From Me to U & it almost
feels like a form

of direct address.
Me & Juelz Santana
are damn near the same

age & although I have yet
to hold a gun or serve
the block my will

is good. I am 15
& everything
is possible.

I am private school
by way of two buses,
one regional train

a first alarm
at 5:25 AM shaking
the entire house

by its neck. My parents
know Jesus loves us
all, abhors

our weaknesses. Dip
Set is contraband
by extension.

Hence, I fled
to the basement
for cover, anxious

to hear a certain version
of my own, moderate life
recited back to me

in spectacular hues,
jacuzzis & bulletproof
vests, rhyming couplets

that all end in the exact
same word, almost
as if some argument

for love beyond
magnetism, some
postmodern parlor

trick, some living, future
English, & everyone in it
is immortal.

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