National Poetry Month Day 26: Malcolm Tariq






The last name of the first boy I kissed
was Love. That night, he kept saying
I love you and I love you.
With no instruction, desire led
my late coming, gave reason
for lips that lie, big beautiful
lips that allow one to hide
in another. Je t’aime
and je te veux I said to myself,
whispering la langue into his ear
like a dame, like slices of sweet peach,
the hint of red at the burning pit.
C’est dur, but I deserve to be devoured,
to French and French myself
into new possibilities.



Living a life since then, I understand now
what grandma meant when she said it.
If only I too could have seen the men
on the side of the house that day,
but look at where forbiddance led me,
how wild the imagination, feeble my mind
to think such intimate embrace.
My searching to fully comprehend
another violence. I could be
the fence on which they fell, the house
where they leaned. The fist
pummeling the face, the ground
lit with the blood. The sweat.
I’m sure I have lived as both
men, waiting to be touched
in any way possible. Fighting for love,
or to stay alive. Even now, hearing her
say that man was tearing him up,
I’m thinking destruction
for creation’s sake. The boy in me begs
to be made into a likeness liked enough
that someone will want to beat it out of me.


Photograph of Malcolm Tariq by Karisma Price.

Malcolm Tariq is a poet and playwright from Savannah, Georgia. He is the author of Heed the Hollow (Graywolf, 2019), winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize and the Georgia Author of the Year Award, and Extended Play (Gertrude Press, 2017). Malcolm has received fellowships and residencies from Horizon Theatre Company, Liberation Theatre Company, Cave Canem, The Watering Hole, Social Science Research Council, and Imagining America. He is a graduate of Emory University and holds a PhD in English from the University of Michigan. Malcolm lives in Brooklyn, New York, where he is the Programs and Communications Manager at Cave Canem, a home for Black poetry. More from this author →