Summer Poetry Award 2nd Place: After Reading DJ Khaled Will Not Perform Oral Sex On His Wife… by Leila Chatti
Leila Chatti’s poem on the perennial politics of sex and power has won 2nd place in the Summer Poetry Award. “After Reading…” exemplifies some of the best poetic-moves that today’s poets enjoy making: the collision of pop culture inanity with profound and transcendent truth, and an unforgiving existential commitment in the face of bodily violence and objectification.
After Reading DJ Khaled Will Not Perform Oral Sex On His Wife Despite Demanding That She Must, I Consider My Relationships
to pleasure, praise. The first time
I touched myself, it was spring
and the dogwood outside
heady with blooming.
I thought God was what opened
inside me; I thought
God. The first time a boy
touched me, he said I could
rape you, if I wanted—I thought pleasure
was that he didn’t. I thought his
I prayed my desire
away, but worshipped
my pain. I told every boy
it was my first time. I told God
it was my last time. Pleasure:
to seem good. The first time
a boy pried me open,
we were under a tree. It was the season
of praise. If you are holding it down
for a woman—if you are holding a woman
down. The root of the root
of king means king. The root of the root of queen
means prostitute. I was
rooted in place. I was
on my knees like a supplicant, on my knees
like a subject. I was
never subject, I was object, I didn’t object,
when I opened my mouth
it was not language that came.
There’s some things that y’all might not wanna do,
but it’s got to get done.The boy who forced me
forced me because he was not my first.
His name meant rule
with mercy. When I first learned
mercy it was through a man
touching me kindly. That
simple. It took such a long time.
The first time a woman
wanted, God showed her no mercy.
The knowledge of God
was pleasure, which He wanted
kept to Himself. The first woman
stood before the tree as her hunger
opened. The knowledge of pleasure
she did not keep to herself. The story is how
she called to her husband.
Said come here and eat.
Leila Chatti is a Tunisian-American poet and author of the chapbooks Ebb (Akashic Books, 2018) and Tunsiya/Amrikiya, the 2017 Editors' Selection from Bull City Press. She is the recipient of scholarships from the Tin House Writers’ Workshop, The Frost Place, and the Key West Literary Seminar, grants from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund and the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, and fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, and Cleveland State University, where she is the inaugural Anisfield-Wolf Fellow in Publishing and Writing. Her poems have received awards from Ploughshares' Emerging Writer's Contest, Narrative's 30 Below Contest and 10th Annual Poetry Contest, the Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Prize, and the Academy of American Poets. She is the Consulting Poetry Editor for the Raleigh Review and her work appears in Ploughshares, Tin House, American Poetry Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Kenyon Review Online, and elsewhere.