Two Poems by Sam Sax


the mass produced
painting of a field
in winter hanging
above the bed
in this west oakland
motel room starts moving
on its own inside
the faux gold frame.
it begins as always
with whiteness swallowing
the rest of the painting
in its dumb bloodslit
famine. then as always
a pulse of the backlit
blue veins rising up
like abrasions on a pale
boy’s back. followed
by the inevitable red
riven out the snow bank
taking the shape
of a scythe or sieve
or finally a boy or the shape
of a boy growing antlers
or the shape of antlers
wherever his hands
are meant to be now.
but they’re impossible
to see in all the movement.
impossible to move
his hands & you have
to wonder how a boy
or the shape of a boy
wound up here
in this unstable field.
if only i knew the history
of art i could give you
more than the color
of the thing. i could tell
exactly what school
this painting is in. i could
use the painter’s biography
to make sense of it
his fucked head & terrible
terrible life. i could use
expensive words to make
all these bizarre gestures
tenable. i wonder
if every one of these
prints is moving
in the same fashion?
or is it just this one
staring upside down
at a boy on his back
on a filthy white blanket
while the shape
of a strange man moves
in unspeakable ways
over his body.


Jumping off gw bridge sorry—

Tyler Clementi’s last Facebook pos 


it’s a tragic technology -- the body -- the camera’s aperture --  

mouth -- the internet feed -- undiscerning -- his suicide -- a cry for

help -- in the forums of a pornography site -- the young man -- his

violin -- was torn -- his passion -- a cramped room -- a leaden sky

-- a prank -- a crime -- governor said, i don’t know how those two folks

are going to sleep at night -- his thirty-two-year-old man -- his music --

his eighteen years -- his roommate’s camera -- embarrassment never

ends -- no body has been recovered -- the webcam -- aimed at his

bed -- his tragedy made him a martyr -- these are his lover’s

trembling hands -- charged with invasion -- these are just stories --

the september it seemed every gay boy was dying -- beyond words --

the camera staring out at me -- convicted of spying -- the body

of christ -- dragged out of the hudson -- the video stream -- a person

by nature -- the bravery of a thread -- his man didn’t know tyler’s

last name until he read it in the paper -- his last words posted -- ten

minutes before -- he was dead


SAM SAX is a 2015 NEA fellow and a poetry fellow at the Michener Center for Writers where he serves as the editor-in-chief of Bat City Review. He’s the author of the chapbooks, A Guide to Undressing Your Monsters (Button Poetry, 2014) and sad boy / detective (Winner of Black Lawrence Press’ 2014 Black River Chapbook Prize). His poems are forthcoming in The Beloit Poetry Journal, Boston Review, Indiana Review, Ninth Letter, Poetry Magazine, Salt Hill and other journals.