Black History Month Special Issue Poetry Winner: doodling at a temporary job (near the end of the world)

Again we’re talking of “conservation” and “efforts”
not of, say, a rainforest, but of landscapes

in oils or acrylics, and I was never an art student
past the age of ten—so I learn new words

like “hatching,” and “leaving,”
how these terms have alternate meanings;

how a bird lays an egg in one hemisphere,
the wind draws clockwise in another.

I don’t know how to tell you I’m fearful
of a world that ends in us still

unfree—that I’m fearful, not of an “if”
but a pattern, resolute and discriminatory

as a God. Yes, stillness is an absence
but also the indication of everything

in the past and up to this point.
Still, I don’t want to scare you

but understand I’m talking about both.
Everything in a museum has a shelf

-life. Each portrait comes with its own inherent
inevitable. We must slow it—

there are careers built around saving
our things from our own

vices: stalling, we are stalling,
I am stalling, to a later end.

END. E N D. I find it littering

my notebook—looming

E N D

E N D

E N D

I write it on the page when my mind
wanders. END D D D D in scribbles and scrawls.


E     N     D       in blackened bubble letters, etched black

holes, hatchings stretching out


from the margins.

E                                                           N                                         D

E

                                      N

                                                                                                                        D

I am losing meaning.

Image Credit: “Jacob Lawrence, 1955, for New York Artists Equity Association’s volume VI publication of Improvisations” by Jacob Lawrence, permitted under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license from Wikimedia Commons.

About the author

Steffan Triplett is a Black, queer writer and educator from Joplin, Missouri. He received his MFA from the University of Pittsburgh and is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis where he was a John B. Ervin Scholar. Some of Steffan's work can be found in Longreads, Electric Literature, DIAGRAM, Fence, Nepantla: An Anthology Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color (Nightboat Books 2018), and Revisiting the Elegy in the Black Lives Matter Era (Routledge 2020). Steffan has been a fellow for Callaloo and Lambda Literary and his work has been nominated for Best of the Net, the Pushcart Prize, and was the winner of the Brutal Nation Prize in Prose. His manuscript-in-progress was Shortlisted for the 2019 Tarpaulin Sky Book Awards. Find him at @steffantriplett on Twitter.

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