Duriel E. Harris
Duriel E. Harris is a poet, performer, and sound artist. She is author of three print volumes of poetry, including her most recent, No Dictionary of a Living Tongue (Nightboat, 2017), Drag (2003) and Amnesiac: Poems (2010). Multi-genre works include her one-woman theatrical performance Thingification, as well as Speleology (2011), a video collaboration with artist Scott Rankin.
Duriel E. Harris
“If You Bring Forth what Is within You”
I used to be a bigot, he professed, pride fanning out between the words, airborne. And
to his body: It was you, weak thing!
I hate you. His pink mouth leaking sap and the world a forest swarm of dagger moths.
They say pain is weakness
leaving the body. Sputum. Spoiled blood. Tears.
And when it rises—pain—in a chorus to meet the open air it is as if a god has been
its spectacular darkness blooms, surges bellowing sulfur, anxious to take
The title is excerpted from the following saying as recorded in The Gospel of Thomas: If you bring forth what is within
you, what is within you will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will
Savoring, the art is not to feed but to taste
—to take pleasure in the smallest increments the blade can deliver.
—ELLE MARO GREY
I love her face. I always want to suck it. She likes to kiss, nibble, and tease but I just want to pull her
face into my mouth. Her jaw’s soft curve shadows my bite and the plum sweet meat of her ripens
through its wax bloom. Its density suggests how else I might indulge myself. Last week I sucked a
bruise into the dimple of her left cheek.
Meaty and so full of blood, she is a length of libidinous muscle shrink-wrapped in skin. I trail my
canines along her jutting rib cage ridge. So little fat. I scrape bone to mark my territory.
Agreement is implicit. All words are equally dangerous. It is better not to speak.
when accosted from behind, I imagine she turns fear to task, puts her mind to use filing carbon paper
lists of next actions. Entering the theatre of our play she has learned to check for all available exits.
Finding it to be a sealed box she clenches then unclenches her jaw. I watch her bend and contract.
Tightening her core, she tunes the ear, focuses her gaze while I move silence in planks and slabs,
loitering outside her field of vision.
Duriel E. Harris is a poet, performer, and sound artist. She is author of three print volumes of poetry, including her most recent, No Dictionary of a Living Tongue (Nightboat, 2017), Drag (2003) and Amnesiac: Poems (2010). Multi-genre works include her one-woman theatrical performance Thingification, as well as Speleology (2011), a video collaboration with artist Scott Rankin. Cofounder of the avant garde poetry/performance trio The Black Took Collective, Harris is showcased in the Poetry Foundation and Manual Cinema’s short film Multitudes celebrating the Walt Whitman BiCentennial. A featured resident poet/teacher at the Lynden Sculpture Garden and the transformational Naropa Capitalocene Summer Writing Program, Harris was a guest at the powerful Festival Internacional de Poesía de La Habana (Cuba). Recent writing is featured with Harriet Blog (The Poetry Foundation), the Academy of American Poets, and Letters to the Future: Black WOMEN/Radical WRITING (Kore Press 2018). Recent and upcoming appearances include performances at the Lake Forest College Allan L. Carr Theatre, the Chicago Jazz Festival (with Douglas Ewart & Inventions), the Greenhouse Theater (Chicago), the Naropa Capitalocene, The Votive Poetics Workshop (New Zealand), and Festival Internacional de Poesía de La Habana (Cuba).
Harris has been a MacDowell and Millay Colony fellow and has received grants from the Illinois Arts Council Agency, the Cave Canem Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Her work has appeared in numerous venues, including BAX, Mandorla, The &Now Awards, Of Poetry & Protest, Ploughshares, Troubling the Line, and The Best of Fence; and her compositions have been translated into Polish, German, and Spanish. Harris earned degrees in Literature from Yale University and NYU, and a PhD from the University of Illinois at Chicago Program for Writers.
The 2018 Offen Poet, Harris is an associate professor of English in the graduate creative writing program at Illinois State University and the Editor of Obsidian: Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora.
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