National Poetry Month Day 26: Aaron Coleman





The Flag Eater

I woke up believing
I had swallowed a flag whole,

discolored and withered
the bright shapes of its symbols, only
half-digesting it

so that a dark chord was being
pushed and pulled through my intestines’

rootlike strength. I could feel
its strange length thin and twisted
within me. I felt ancient and alarmed as I sat down

on the toilet in my quiet bathroom
and shat and coughed and exhaled in peace. Released

myself with all abandon
until I stood up and looked down
to see the flag turned human colors,

delicate and veined as vegetable leaves.
My eyes felt clearer. My body balanced as I blinked

at the diaphanous flag on the other side
of its invention. Wondering
what nutrients from it were left in me, how

it had survived, transformed
deep brown and soft gold cast

through the warm darkness of my carnal being.
There was a pleasure
as I flushed my secret.

I took what was not food
and made it feed me. I did not choke.

The animal of me was in control.
I thought I’d never need to eat another flag
and slowly washed my hands, considering my surface

in the mirror. I closed my eyes
a moment, then went about my day.



Author photo by Marcus Jackson 

Aaron Coleman is the author of Red Wilderness (Four Way Books, forthcoming 2024), Threat Come Close (Four Way Books, 2018) winner of the GLCA New Writers Award, and St. Trigger (Button, 2016), winner of the Button Poetry Prize. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Cave Canem, the Fulbright Program, and the American Literary Translators Association. His poems have appeared in publications including Boston Review, Callaloo, The New York Times, Poetry Society of America, and the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day series. He is the Postdoctoral Fellow in Critical Translation Studies at the University of Michigan. More from this author →