2023 Frontier OPEN Finalist: Hex As Language Of The Unheard by Chace Morris

Join us in celebrating this poem by Chace Morris, the last of our finalists of the 2023 Frontier OPEN!

Thank you for joining us and reading the fantastic finalists. Look out for more poetry in 2024!

Hex As Language Of The Unheard


When we say strike, when they hear it this time, I don’t want them

to hear the chants. I do not want them to read the signs.

I want them to feel the sandpaper match-head, dragging

the dry anxiety of its scalp across their conservative throat,

throwing its head up into a rave of red-orange braids.

I want them to know a hell is coming that can’t be negotiated with.

A devil of indica sulfur, whose bible is the Mississippi

face of Fannie Lou Hamer, speaking in tongues of union

charters, liveable royalties, & ratchet freedom

songs that burn cop cars. This strike lucky,

Jedi force across the empire’s bow, fastball

threatening those menacing home. High smoke.

Every vine of its grey ethereal curls

taking apart the safe house of breathing

in their lungs.


When we say organize this time, I want them to feel it in their kidneys.

I want it to shutter their obsolete factory of a liver, bourbon excess

ravaging their gut into rustbelt. I want their heart

to decide to save the economy of 1%

of their body over everything else; save only their teeth,

pumping blood by the gallon into the ivory,

forcing their fingers to stretch the dwindling red money,

four weeks at a time. I want to see them try to

force a bill through with a starving, desperate thumb,

so disconnected from its governing body that it quits

democracy, leaves the body behind, expats to Bali,

hands just headless chickens counting to four.

I want their skin to shrink, lose its elasticity.

I want everywhere to feel like a tenement,

suffocating inside their mansion.

For every super PAC check, a blood clot.

For every zero, a tumor.


When we say rights, they should instead imagine hood as coven.

Dark irreverent futures, hood after hood stripping the “g” and “h”

right out the word, constructing summoning circles miles-wide,

out of sight. God-sized mouths of conjure drawn with salt

& cowrie & blunt guts & midnight tire spirals

& streetlight altars & fluorescent aliases bubbling

over cement & metal like soft acid. Oracles

big enough to hold all our curses in.  Petty crimes & non-voters,

poets & street racers, honest livings & hustlenomics–united.

Rootwork is a power of repetition & faith.

Did you know a gathering of curses is called an economy?

Scammed all these autocrats on TV to repeat

our magic for us—save the economy, stimulate the economy

pouring trillions in belief upon this word that is not as safe

as they think it is.

Governor so and so said come come capitalism is starving, feed it

your body. Gathers their richest friends around the hospital bed

of my good friend, velvet trunks full of empty wine bottles in tow,

catching each last breath like a butterfly. The more

struggle in the death, the more beautiful the hues

of blue, the more merlot the grief for the sip as they laugh.


I want the rich to know we are building a Book Of The Dead—

every tweet, every facebook status—an anagram of loved names

their neglect killed. It’s too late now. Names germed along the lip

of their bourbon glass, lockpicking into the joints

of their crypt-kept fingers & partying them down to arthritis.

Names latticing unidentifiable bacterial ecosystems underneath

their comedic toupees, names on the tongues of the mistresses they fuck,

names in the spit of their children’s lies, the blood of their christ.


They will want to enact martial law, negotiate, write an amend

ment. It’ll be too late. Them our hands on their steering wheel,

reordering the intimates of their bathroom. We got a custodian

with a key to every office in their building, and a secretary

setting up their Google calendar. We got a hustler

in their son’s frontal lobe re-coding their mouth with Kendrick

Lamar lyrics, & a trap diva in the flawed twerk of their daughter.


What you throw away of yourselves, we re-budget, expand

our libraries of black magic. like flowers messaging

through the pollen, we are finding each other.

I see you I see you I see you I see you.


When we say union, I imagine a president looking

out the window one night, searching the sky

for the reassurance of an american star,

and only finding fat triple black. Heaven, for them, now

the back of Christopher Wallace’s neck. All that alabaster

hate, never noticed all the stars migrating south to earth, mortgaging

night for the silent wealth of a brown body:


The somatic joy of cherrying a hazy-hot room

with red scarves, the gratitude of sentient hair

that softens access only for the fingers of its tenderest love,

the smell of fried fish stitched into Friday party clothes,

the many vulgar sonnets a drum writes the hips into.

Every little thing means everything to us.

Nothing means what they think.

I want the president to look down

in horror and see a constellation

of shimmering dirt, lowering

his house like a cheap casket.

Quicksand: what freedom

looks like when it pulls

up on you like a shotgun.

Chace Morris

Chace Morris is a poet, emcee, & curator from Detroit. He is a Kresge Literary Fellow, Callaloo Writing Fellow, & has received the Alain Locke Award from the Detroit Institute of Arts. His work has been published in wildness, Muzzle, The Offing, and more. When not writing, he is having fun build an art practice with his partner, Sherina, creating hall of fame Spotify playlists, and practicing his slow-motion walk into venues.

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