April is National Poetry Month and MurderMurder News is here to help you celebrate with these haunting poems! From chilling social commentaries on race to spooky murder mysteries, these 10 poems will undoubtedly inspire you to read more poetry this month.
1. Self-Portrait as a Dead Black Boy by Geffrey Davis
“Self-Portrait as a Dead Black Boy” was originally published in Night Angler, Geffrey Davis’ award-winning second collection of poems that was published in 2019. This poem is told from the perspective of a Black man recounting his daily life, from childhood to present, and contrasting those experiences with that of Black boys and men who have died whilst trying to live their lives just the same. Davis’ poem highlights the haunting reality of what has now become a ubiquitous narrative in the news and in popular culture and his work serves as an abiding commentary on the gritty reality of racial violence in America.
2. 99 by Jonaki Ray
Jonaki Ray’s poem “99” tells the story of an inmate who is sentenced to 99 years in prison. The inmate passes their time by crocheting bags, caps, and booties in exchange for cigarettes until they are eventually diagnosed with a seemingly terminal illness. Although the reader is unaware of what crime this person committed, they can intuit via the life-long sentence that it’s a serious offense. Nonetheless, this poem humanizes the inmate’s experience and makes you ache for the things they yearned for but couldn’t have while locked up.
3. Ghosts Over the Boiler by Darrell B. Grayson
Darrell B. Grayson’s poem “Ghosts Over the Boiler” is also set in a prison, but this time the subject is an inmate who died in his cell. Although it was likely a suicide, the speaker suspends the reader’s disbelief for a moment and posits that there’s an even greater issue at hand— when you’re a ghost over the boiler, what can you do?
4. In Which I Search for My Brother’s Missing Body in Ohio by Khaty Xiong
Published in January 2021, Khaty Xiong’s “In Which I Search for My Brother’s Missing Body” is a chilling poem that follows the speaker’s search for their brother’s missing body. It is unclear to the reader whether or not the brother’s body is literally missing or if it has simply been lost due to the overbearing power of cultural erasure in the context of American society.
5. Invisible Children by Mariana Llanos
“Invisible Children” is a haunting poem about children opening their eyes to the harsh reality of the world and finding that no one is there to help them but themselves. Mariana Llanos is a Peruvian-born writer that is based in Oklahoma, and I can only assume that the “invisible children” are those who are immigrating to the United States. Instead of finding themselves in a pocket of safety, these children are taken and/or separated from their families and forced to fend for themselves in an unfamiliar society that will never support them without first undergoing radical systemic change.
6. The Evidence That We Are Here by Damon Locks
Damon Locks’ poem “The Evidence That We Are Here” is a beautiful but plaintive black-and-white comic about the persecution of Black folks in America and the impact of the last year’s pandemic and election on the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s short but exceptionally powerful in portraying its message and it poses the difficult question of what should be done to change what is happening in the world today.
7. Notes of a Cultural Terrorist 2 by Wanda Coleman
Wanda Coleman’s poem “Notes of a Cultural Terrorist 2” equates the daily life of an individual that is not in the good graces of American society to war. In doing so, Coleman’s speaker sheds light on the lives of historically underrepresented and unsupported communities who are terrorized by American society. Yet, these victims of cultural terrorism are portrayed as the terrorists themselves.
8. The Orange Alert by Douglas Kearney
Douglas Kearney cultivates an eerie post-apocalyptic world in his poem “The Orange Alert,” wherein the speaker describes a world where “radios warned of orange” and HAZMAT trucks are deemed a necessity for survival. In light of the current global pandemic and the increasingly severe impacts of climate change, doomsday-style poems have begun to feel much more probable and Kearney’s haunting poem is no exception.
9. Crime Club by Weldon Kees
Published in 1943, Weldon Kees’ “Crime Club” spins a complex web of murder and intrigue that is guaranteed to spook you nearly 80 years later. The scene is set up like a game of Clue— except there is no mansion or marauding dinner guests and waitstaff. Instead, the subject feels very civilian and the little details provided create an intriguing cast of characters that the reader will never meet. Can you figure out who did it or is it true that “nothing can be solved?”
10. Ghost by Cynthia Huntington
Is Cynthia Huntington’s poem “Ghost” about a real ghost or is there a more figurative meaning at play? Have you experienced a ghost like the one portrayed in this poem? This poem is dazzlingly haunting and makes you question just how well you know yourself as well as those around you.