Three Poems by syan jay

High Desert Sonnet

                      In my hometown, there are only children.
                      They live beneath tumbleweeds & chase
                      coyotes, looking down their gun barrel throats
                      & screaming with countered violence.

                       & screaming with countered violence,
                       a boy I loved fights another, hands becoming
                       thunderheads, sound of God & his angels bowling,
the cut above his eyebrow blooming with rubies.

 The cut above his eyebrow blooming with rubies
 reminds him of his grandfather, knocked
                        out by a kangaroo who boxed in a circus.
                        He admires the foolishness of his bloodline.

                        He admires the foolishness of his bloodline,
                        with his smile, teeth hanging loose & pretty.

                      With his smile, teeth hanging loose & pretty,                                     
                  the boys of my hometown abandon their dates                                      
                      at gas stations to skip out on paying, leaving                                      
                                  a body as collateral, as down-payment.                                     

                                  A body as collateral, as down-payment,                                     
                              what do you call the person who trembles                                     
                              as warning before striking? A rattlesnake;                                    
                                               a wired jaw begging to be opened.   

                                                A wired jaw begging to be opened   
                      is the collective noun for a group of teenagers,  
                 who brim at desert bonfires with cloying fingers,                                  
who knows what else could happen between these weeds?                                  

Who knows what else could happen between these weeds?                                 
                                  In my hometown, there are only children.                                 


The word necklace combines neck with lace, meaning
“cord,” from the Old French laz, “string, cord, or snare.”
The Latin root, laqueum, means “noose or snare.”

Take your stranger hands,
               wrap them around my neck,
                              like the pretty strands you stole
               for your mother, her face
a blue bloom on the carpet
                                              of the living room
                              just before
              the ambulance arrived.

                         After the funeral, cornflowers fielded
                                        behind you, wet leaves nudging your calves,
                         reminders of damp napkins
                on mournful cheeks. Children trailed the procession,
picking petals & raining them around
                              as clouds, their hands destroyers,
                 singing hymns they did not recognize.

                 Here you are now,
in a bedroom,
                 trying to remember where your fingers clasp:
                                  the clasps on the broken necklace:
                  the broken neck:
the neck breaking to be clasped:
                                  by your fingers, trying to remember
                  you’re in a bedroom, here now,
                                  your face too sweet & unknowing,
                  of all the ways to obey the body.


The Body Is a Storm Is a Warning










syan jay is an agender, Dzil Łigai Si’an N’dee (White Mountain Apache) poet who resides in Massachusett/Nipmuc/Wampanoag land. They are the winner of the 2018 Pacific Spirit Poetry Prize and are Frontier Poetry’s 2019 Frontier New Voices Fellow. Their work is published/upcoming with The Shallow EndsWILDNESSGlass: A Journal of Poetry, and Black Warrior Review. Their debut poetry collection, “Bury Me in Thunder” is forthcoming with Sundress Publications in January 2020. You can find more of their work at, or on Twitter @mxsyanjay.