Two Poems by Julian Randall

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy

Variation on a Theme of Genetics

After Kendrick Lamar

In the dregs of August I watch the birds sprint like Black folk    and surely this is in my DNA
the loudness of living amongst the living breaks one bird loose into armada of wings in my DNA

Where I’m from is a question I can only answer in my parents’ capillaries and thus I know only a
bruise’s worth of my origin    I have 1 country and 1 executioner     they’re the same in my DNA

Tradition dictates the men in my family die of nothing but themselves     and so I am a fugitive
percussion     child of bad knees      I sprint an emaciated hum until I’m a threat to my DNA

Beneath my skin I keep 23 versions of the same drowned map     I am a library of redundancies
bird lost amongst birds    I was built in and for obscurity   all the darkness is practical in my DNA

The body is a subtle phalanx   by which I mean     I am never not thinking about dying
Every child being born is also being sent to their death    I calculate the mercies in my DNA

each night as if I could bend pinion into a frail sickle   slake every thirsting palm with a blade
There’s a joke that nothing makes Black people run faster      than other Black people running

                 Tell me something
                                         only if you know it
Why are we running                if not because the loyalty is in our DNA       native as an apocalypse
                                      Do the birds know
                                                                                 their blades look like blades against 

even a threatless sky
                                                      what is patience
                                                                   but a luxury of the hunted

the appeasement of a mosquito is just a docile format of bloodshed                            tell me

when destruction gonna be our fate
                                                               surrender is as expensive as it is unjustifiable

                                        I am trying to vanquish a hereditary sadness 

I am trying to say I was born with my mother’s face  
                                                                 and my father’s skin who says   I have the face of the future
                       named so    for being the last obscurity    he will see before he dies
just my luck       to be born    a few years before
                                                                                               the end of the world
my parents draw nearer the end of their running         with silk thin wings           we are listening
         for the tragedy that will escort them out of this life        leaving me holding only the blood

Tanka for the 4th of July

I will spend the day
surviving which is the most
use of my body since I
spat loose a bullet and laughed

Photo of Julian Randall

Photo of Julian Randall

Julian Randall is a Living Queer Black poet from Chicago. He has received fellowships from Callaloo, BOAAT and the Watering Hole and was the 2015 National College Slam (CUPSI) Best Poet. Julian is the curator of Winter Tangerine Review’s Lineage of Mirrors. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications such as New York Times Magazine, Prairie Schooner and The Adroit Journal and in the anthologies Portrait in Blues, Nepantla and New Poetry from the Midwest. He is a candidate for his MFA in Poetry at Ole Miss. His first book, Refuse, is the winner of the 2017 Cave Canem Poetry prize and will be published by University of Pittsburgh Press in Fall 2018.