Trace DePass

requiem for the butterfly effect

a butterfly tripped over its wings
or walked with shackles
shushing itself to swallow sustenance
like the rest of them, vittles and now skulls
become Earth’s nectar.
[i took one step forward, then two steps back]
out of dancing on death’s toes. we don’t flinch.
we departed that…
left Africa for white-washed wooden ships,
rotting, with dead folk and repetition
no God. no witness.
i saw the butterfly that held my fate
(and realized that the ship is still buoyant,
it did not matter,
there are no options besides our own death…

and it was likely i would walk the plank,
watching water become my audience,
and spit me back out,
where the dead used to sing & had a song
like the rest of them, i am still here,
making a habit
out all my nerves, most left not long after
we had left that land. left it for floorboards,
purpled with black blood,
green men with gray bullets and no mothers.
when i was about to plunge off that plank
i thought i would jump
whether it be with, or without, dead weight,
still don’t matter. we would all become slaves,
soon, if not then late).

carefree black / ghost peering beyond two masks

                                         yes, i am
soft in the meantime   the interim in
electron & absence, of course
i don’t care for strength.
i mourn, yes, my mouth.
i read black lips, peer, & see the syntax –
broken. my tongue dragged
by ankles
       with english
soon as i ask        wusgood, sambo?
i wade, perched north beneath a roof
as stalactites in the interim, the
cavernous english dark inside my mouth.
i become (because why not?) a long pitch black tunnel
rivered underwater between
African & American,
whose manta rays & Cuttlefish disperse & hover

the hyphen, like Atlantic oceanic mantle
inside black people, yet relinquished        in
the interim, we drink a bottle full of endless;
all the drowned names name themselves monks
of the caves inside
amongst themselves too early. in the interim, we
blow out the speakers & haze like philosophers in
Southside Jamaica. in Southside,
                    maybe we speak the english that
learned to get along with itself. you know
i laugh at the idea of laughing, these things which we
cackle involuntary at;

perhaps, given we speak language
we ain’t supposed to speak,
white men know we must know there is
some type of peace here
they can’t perform. hey, maybe when i say
  wus crackin other than yo lips, negro?
                                    white men start
inquiring for the human tender enough to
grieve the dark body in its hands still damp
from genocide, hoping i won’t take him
to how my mouth got this way, how i took
back english, how i make it mourn itself
for birthing

niggas like me. how i crush phonetics
behind latin script behind my molars
& make the syllable crash into self.
white men don’t know i’m only soft spoken
for now. they don’t understand how i could
still take my time, since they ain’t kno
time is mine.

they ain’t kno how often i had to be enough
to endure the odds of it happening – all of the
atoms within the slave at the brim of becoming
water; allied powers gleaming their will

when sour, their white horse gallops
toward my body, rippling crests in my
now cracked-open dialect in each dialectic.
                         here, 400 years
unsheathed hairs of a mare thickened ripe with
invasion, his hooves painted each black lip
burgundy & whinnied an undoing. they ain’t kno

how i once told my


what you doin here? i see you,
cowboy. where you
bout to be out to?
where we finna go?  

the tesseract tethers rooms

[if a cube, once beyond 3D, becomes hypercube,
the way square face smack-collapse henry’s box,      his body’s part vitruvian here,]
if each room is a cube, if  here  perhaps is a room  
this night i’ll sit, stay, spin, congruent with hypercubes.

                    yes, time, in the cubes with deaths in them, passes so much
i could see all, even the deprived, of time, evaporate into a sky’s black face
is it transpiration once animals with human limbs depart earth as stray water?
      or no?
allowance, adhere this – allegiant s[p]un arisen
to hue from its own animal & then adhesion.

perhaps when your black body needs more time, something mass-
ive enough to be it lifts, from it, up.
perhaps when your black body needs           ,
minutes might chip away from it      

                or us; then, perhaps,
dearbody, i knew    never could i ever keep up.
everything, blackbody, which did not make me beauty enough, ran like a creek thru
                or us; then, perhaps,
dearbody, i knew    me and coaxed oxbows not oxygen, just gin, from blood.
i had dreams of becoming for entire seasons a season back when i had dreams
                          & only Autumn.

i depart some father’s lids’ dark & see: i barely recall light but please observe how
i was born how it is: to mourn.
the it itself, “mourning” mourning,
peering thru as it self,   seeing
& knowing
                     here is no exit,
excavating, with deer eyes, here
                      as it, only until the gradual dying-it.      the neon puss dye
in the rigged big, marred open, [a]jar from worms & dirt,
it reeks & itches like a house of too many nails,
burrowing its own white walls pink;
it looks.        like someone’s entire incised, expired,
melonhead, here — this collapsed underground underground.
certain places the dead still grasp
possess no place for the living & yet,

here might be but refurbished, repurposed,
a white ghost — that cenotaph… is it yours?
my father’s dog, found in the yard with a
bullet in its head, moved out here
where the belonged stray.


can’t want to stay here without want.  
am i too happy now to want     to marry something?     so bound-in by its dimensions, the love
               sets, resets by whim’s direction & not intention?
is it just to(o) in the present? that’s just     to(o) bad. hell, i might just love anywhen else.
               so, no, not “my bad”.
i tire of death, relative to me, not passing, in 3D. i need this divorce.
you go writ(h)e,
               go anthropomorphize rot incessant all     thru my body. look! there’s ceiling to this
passivity: dirt. here’s this room i’ve named —
outside that room lives just my other room,
                                  another empty tomb, maybe
                                  a separate cube,
which, after peering at it for long enough, i too
on some days become. watch: i’ve lost

track of my own tesseract face, mourning my spun abandoned boy/hood. time saddles, hastes,
whips, leaves all at once. i get a few good looks at myself when a lens     the other side

of me can tell me

how sharp
i look, in passing, in 3D.

this here! in a body who might soon forget me tells me of nuance in my will, how this
good letterhead tops my death certificate; how different i must be before she felt

my hands, and, maybe, i like her
usage of time. the it within her knows
certain things before they happen.
perhaps, i’ll make this place some when within her all my
omnidirectional, omnitemporal,  omni-
                              scient/present at least out & thru
all my deerbody; my last, boundless &  final place.

Trace Howard DePass is the author of Self-portrait as the space between us (PANK Books 2018) and editor of Scholastic’s Best Teen Writing of 2017. He served as the 2016 Teen Poet Laureate for the Borough of Queens. His work has been featured on BET Next Level, Billboard, Blavity, NPR’s The Takeaway, and also resides within literary homes-Entropy Magazine, Split This Rock!, The Other Side of Violet, Best Teen Writing of 2015, & the Voice of The East Coast Anthology.