Q & A

—Do you have a fear of losing people?

I once rustled moonlight underneath the blanket
and threatened to keep it. I unwrapped it slowly
like sand loosed by waves, a child with one present
come Christmas morning.

—Do you feel that being black makes you a target?

If shooting holes into darkness was not a sport,
then each glow, each bend and arc, each reach
and fiery flicker of stellar assortment would be a lie—

—Who did you vote for?

All I wanted were bodies back.

—Why do black people run from police?

The concrete is hot. These are new shoes.
As sons and daughters of Mercury, we are partial
to wind sprints, Julys and Junes.

—Slavery was such a long time ago. Why can’t you just get over it?

(Sisyphuses. Gluttons for punishment,
you’d joke.) Because some of us swam
to the sea’s depth, told us this secret:
(                                               )

—Michael Brown is in so many of your poems. Did you know him?

I often viewed the Arch’s bend over a small piece of St. Louis
like it owned the city. I, in my school bus, passed—never able
to connect both ends.

—Who is Icarus to you?

A canary on the heels of antelope. A Pegasus without wings.

—What have you learned from protest?

I’m in love with the sound of freedom, the way the top teeth
sink into the bottom lip, the way the tongue hovers in suspense,
before bouncing suddenly to the roof of a mouth
like a mallet striking a lever; the puck rising to toll the bell,
the last consonant ending in a kiss.
 
—What do you hope to accomplish by writing this poem?

I hope to release a hummingbird from the palm of my hand,
watch it fly off on little wings.

 

Raised in St. Louis, Missouri, and San Bernardino, California, Chaun Ballard is an affiliate editor for Alaska Quarterly Review, a Callaloo fellow, and a graduate of the MFA Program at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. Chaun Ballard’s chapbook, Flight, is the winner of the 2018 Sunken Garden Poetry Prize and is published by Tupelo Press. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in ANMLY (FKA Drunken Boat), Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Chiron Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Frontier Poetry, International Poetry Review, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Rattle, and other literary magazines. His work has received nominations for both Best of the Net and a Pushcart Prize.