Two Poems: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and In Translation

Jayson P. Smith

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

after Deborah Kass

I. no, because I am afraid to die, it does not matter what I become.

II. unbraided. never is. a document: un-teethed, abundant. of a sentence, but. ageless in acquiescence. besides, exploited. the general compulsions of form, without color. rhetorical shifts regarding lack. the strangeness of I, concurrent consummation. a system of wide ruin—

in another arrangement, I would know to resign. here, I'm encouraged (which means insatiable). see, I'm busy: accumulating points in skee ball. outweighing my names like a real nigga. (so I lose the will to live sometimes. there are occasions to clap on the two/four, & that's cool too.) I pass the phrase effort is beautiful in an uber I can't afford. watch a man hang from my apartment building, contemplate the boundaries of my business. I know paradox is presence enough. nothing about honest is honest—they watch me wound while asking I be careful.

III. what is meant by subjunctive: if I, then you, you, you, you, you—


In Translation,

what it’s almost
is regular in its
urgency. note:
I am twenty-four.
sudden citizen
of the sentence
& altogether
afraid. a machine wakes,
punched-in &
bloodless & this is how
a world gets made.
in the small fist
of chronology
there’s an aftermath.
in Crown Heights
it’s easier to call me
thirsty—my bones
made for dim boundaries.
put another way, aperture:
aperture is a hole &
I am sometimes
as useful. another:
when he comes
& I come to, nothing ever
comes to mind.