Apotheosis by Phillip B. Williams

And so faggot meant abandoned warehouse
where all my storm-tailed fears rushed into. People

cut air with spit, split their god into man and more
questions: who has written the praise song to blanket

this ruby and pearl, another way of saying this blood-
bone marriage has been annulled, has given

its storage to a cut of summer air? We are back
to the beginning and have gone inside. The bats

have come down, wooden and sterile, to kiss
the joints, to rearrange teeth and thoughts.

Faggot was another person who snuck inside me,
was put inside me, and all the fields inside me

turned Greek, meaning tragic and pale, meaning
its beasts were hybrid and hard to slay:

a faggot in the nigger and a nigger in the faggot
and though both hollered I couldn’t let them go.


Still this is a faggot’s song, and he sings: tired
of the new prescriptions of the world, the faggot

man woke to the bass of a stranger’s Hummer
but thought he remained, still, in his violent dream. He said,

there isn’t a thing to keep this rattle-driven blood from

draining in this Monday of burning houses. Yet
having felt the heat in me shake like a window,

this moment’s an unhinging, a loosened fiber (“pussy
nigga” from the hummer, “batty bwoy” in the dream)

taking possession of this thinking.” And so the faggot man said.
It was how the word made dark his every room: faggot

the only definition for faggot, for a moment on burning
at the edge of sleep, faggot, to see in his dream a fire-

ant crawl from the eye of a dead crow, to see himself
as the dead crow and not the ant, to know he was

the crow in sleep and when awake—it was the sharp
of the word that sharpened itself. It was how

he was faggot, how his faggotry came, descriptor
teaching him how to describe himself, faggot

like a new lexicon, and it entered him, became a childhood
memory: faggot in a house in a cradle full of sticks lit

at their tips like cigarillos: faggot tied to the wheel
of his family’s iris and spun and cudgeled: “faggot where

you going this late at night”: faggot where a pit bull
pirouettes another pit bull in its mouth: faggot who faggots

flagrantly his gilded gums with hurrah and haints:
faggot in the fly horde sucking at a corpse-soft wound

stitch by stitch until the fabric pops open: open: open:
fabric pops open and the wind moves through: faggot

coming in like the wind: how the wind comes again
when it can but different than it had been: a storm

that was both its weapon and shield until already
it had entered where neither—anymore—mattered.
Read “Aboutness: a conversation with Phillip B. Williams” here.
Phillip B. Williams is a Chicago, Illinois native. He is the author of the chapbooks Bruised Gospels (Arts in Bloom Inc. 2011) and Burn (YesYes Books, 2013). He is a Cave Canem graduate and received scholarships from Bread Loaf Writers Conference and a 2013 Ruth Lilly Fellowship. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Anti-, Callaloo, Kenyon Review Online, Poetry, The Southern Review, West Branch and others. Phillip is currently a Chancellor’s Graduate Fellow at the Washington University in St. Louis and is working on his MFA in Creative Writing. He is the poetry editor of the online journal Vinyl Poetry.