Anaïs Duplan


Sometimes I decide on the rules of a poem before I write it. The rules were: two things interrupting, in couplets with refrains. Then I thought, "What better interruption than the image of black people dancing?" Which is why we do the hootchy-kootchy and the imaginary "mackerel shuffle." Maybe it's the rhyme or the alliteration that makes many of those dance names feel like black dances. Whatever it is, it's in the way, here in the poem, and I appreciate that about it. 

 

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Opening My Mouth, Etc., and a Real Louder Crash

        "The thing we think about must have subsisted during the act of thinking."

A gun reverberates in my presence
and perhaps I say, "This is going to be 

Do the boogie-woogie, do
the hootchy-kootchy!

like being alive." If we trace a tune we know by heart
the notes&letters pull poorly together and fade

Do the wolf-walk, do
the hustle-bug!

as though they were an ephemeral string
of rocks in a box. A skyscraper for the man

Do the mackeral shuffle, do
the stanky legg!

whose prowess won the battle of Austerlitz.
Someone fabricates, "The sleazy Mr. Felucca will come

Do the black-bottom, do
the shim-sham!

to squish me this afternoon. I am overripe." I ask, 
fraying, "How long does it take to derail a train?"

 

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Anaïs Duplan is the author of a forthcoming collection whose title used to be Take This Stallion, but now it could be anything. Her writing has appeared in Hyperallergic, Phantom Limb, Birdfeast, PANK, among others. She runs The Spacesuits, which is an ongoing experiment about the Afrofuture. She is an MFA candidate at the Iowa Writers' Workshop in addition to having a profound connection with most dogs she meets.