narcissus in dystopia

after MAA

Jayy Dodd


the bees within us could die at any moment                              something more empty than holding
everything is becoming background noise                             barren streams with ashes of blossoms
i hope the drones would find me sleeping                                      there is no palace in sterile fantasy
with my computer open i believe in radiation                          to bear myself a queen requires more
waves contract & exhale my reflection                                  while there are never crowns in dystopia
maybe one of these frequencies will work                                 there are only lakes or oceans or rain
against the drift i consume this static rippling                             unrecognizable in toxic disfiguration
all possible torrents can still be corrupted                                                     what still buzzes in the sky
the day is ambient — the night is garbled                                                 beyond this hive of half lives:
pops & hisses travel lightyears                                           messages from the matter we-are-made-of
just to speak of the void                                                                                      a future darker than here


the last place my archaic transmission stares back





Hand, Red
Hand, My
Hand, Black



My momma ain’t never been above hard work. She come from sharecroppers.
Enslaved niggas. A linage of labor. Took eighteen hours for me. She say she so proud
cause she ain’t never seen her boy without a job.

But she ain’t never seen my hands calloused, either. I know so little of hard labor,
I have found offices & noose-tie casual wear as comfort—
been an experienced-nigga, having long understood economy.

Niggas always marvel at my hands. Like how they so soft.
The hardest thing I did as a child was dance. These hands have always been
soft things. The signal to the otherwise unaware, how my work is required to hold me.



What if God was something
that could be held in the hand.
With us here. A present thing.
Birth now a heavenly place.


Here, hold close the divine. We, a people to be held.
Hands to God, we entangle ourselves together.

Our instructions simple:
hold one another close.
This is neighbor & lover & kin.
We hold each other, as possible.
Too soon— a trespassing.



Un-burden our hearts. All this a manicured chorus,
high above. Pour out, feed us. We grow new & whole

    (Instructions on Dying)

First, wear a white linen suit. Black linen Shirt. Black loafers.
Five-dollar sunglasses from the Garment District.
Hold court. This is a commencement.
Or, a blue suit. Ill fitting, but filled. Final interview.

The shot will come from no-where. Your hands a-flailing.
Miracle wound & you, the assassinated, right?.

Or, lay still in your bed. Naked. They will find you,
beautiful. You, a rest. Your skin soft as ever, just now
cold. Hear them tell it. Speak of you as you are.
Isn’t that your favorite lament?




acrylics from down the street — black matte, this time.
my thumbs are blistering. before they a calloused,
swollen thing stained in turmeric & my mother asks about
my smoking. I tell her it’s not what she thinks, but I guess it is from
the lighters. stubborn, now split & peeling. my hands

are soft pretty gifts from my mother. the blistering,
my own stubbornness. but I keep them delicate & soft
other-wise. girls always tell me how my nail-beds are beautiful.
how pretty my fingers look.    my mother is
often taken how pretty how my hands look
when I hold things.



Hand me a man in my hands
           & I will hold that man.
He will be man-handled.
For I know how to handle a man.
My hands have handled men.
Men know my hands.
Men have caught my hands.
Men have held my hands.
I have held men in my hands.
Men mind being held
           & I hand-hold them.
Hands-held together.
Holding back.
Men holding men back with hands held up by other hands.
Hand me a man’s hand
           & I will hold him, like healing is possible in the palm of a hand.
Hold me, please, your hands—
          a haven, a holding pattern hovering over my mine.
Hold my hand, hold me, in your hand I am a small
          & playful thing.
Hand me myself, hold me to man.



I've imagined these hands a liberation,

dreaming of a swallowing universe.

Holding here & now,

I remember how the body cannot choke itself.

Still, there are other ways of betrayal.

Out-side of the body. A power in the hands:

before these muthafuxkers take you out

Taking. A life. Taken. The body preys itself—handled.

Held. These hands caught up. Catch freedom. 


at risk & awareness of self indulgence, i’ve been exploring Narcissus, the demigod who became a flower, as a means to navigate personal & systemic trials of the Black trans body. over the last year i’ve been transitioning in a variety of ways, from my physical body to my geographic home, to my mental health — each requiring introspection into a mired understanding of myself. in a world that has made my life feel unreal & impossible, this work was me writing myself into myth, combatting forgetfulness. 

jayy dodd is a blxk question mark from los angeles, california– now based on the internet. their work has appeared / will appear in places. they’re the author of [sugar in the tank]  & Mannish Tongues. their collection The Black Condition ft. Narcissus is forthcoming. they are a Pushcart Prize nominee, co-editor of Bettering American Poetry & a 2017 Lambda Literary Fellow.  find them talking trash online or taking a selfie.