Kamden Hilliard

Ocean Poem


after Zora Neale Hurston



the mountains don’t even lie, mr. frantic­atlantic.

always the same pedantic grin / rocky face winking

into morning. same cards always showing. Mr. Pitt

in Ocean’s Eleven knows it ain’t all grammys

and insurance payouts so stay woke / keep an eye on that mountain:

metropolis mashing bodymods,

a dependable creativity of destruction.

mud overcasting the former above.


oh assorted water names, always clever: with body bulge /

multitude of insta angles­­well liked but not always

so honest.

not always so whatcha see is what ya get to take home:


Eddie Aikau wen go

and never come back. eddie who knew

the risk, the danger. to swim is to say

catch me if you can, ocean. and who

doesn’t love a challenge? who after all

all these years remains undefeated?


so yes, oceania, you win, just pick: terror or treasure / top or bottom/love me or

lust me, big daddy blue.


Churchill figured it out too, to improve is to change, to perfect is to change often.

what a trill: tidal boards all up in my beach date like oh

y’all weren’t finna do the sunset / buttfuck / cuddle thing, right? wrong, ocean.

you may not be the weakest link (goodbye) but yr cutting it pretty fuckin close

with this general trend.


change, i mean:everyone loves you, they really really love you.

but there’s that tide again.there’s the dude who hit shuffle on your little music machine

and wants to know why yr bumping Blank Space? whose social shirt tail is unplucked

with the heat of overexposure?


errybody knows, Hurston feels most colored when thrown against a sharp white



i’m always tracking changes. my first MySpace page was called a new twist

and still exists.

sticky first drafts of the selfcramping my closet space.


i have every right to be upsetthere’s too much to hide! skeletons (HTML and human)

wiping me blue,white, then bloody under the undertow’s unpredictable grimace.


exposure is another word for danger,and danger is another way of saying:


hello, world. hello, cereal. hello, sandcrab

hello, info­-ocean!crashing my myspace pages betwixt

T Swift lyrics and bad beach pics.

up and back and down and maybe

just maybe letting eddie home. I am a dark rock

surged upon, and overswept,

but through it all, I remain myself.

When covered by the waters, I am;

and the ebb but reveals me again.


But Like What Do You Mean?



the Wayans are actual bros., so there’s a hope. you like apples,

crisis hot language quandary? how ‘bout them apples, tit­lated

with grease­sheen­diner­booth­bad­date ‘cause i’m allnah

Tyler Perry is whack af. ‘cause when he [sex­toy­boy­top­monogamish­dude]

says it’s funny tho he AKAs black people are funny which AKAs

blackness is funny which AKAs (i’m using the OED here):

Causing laughter or amusement; humorous. alas, crisis hot language

quandary­­ point taken. AKA means also known as as well as

Alpha Kappa Alpha. i keep asking, like Matt Damon in Good Will

Hunting, if anyone likes these apples but my apples are not

Minnie Driver’s phone number, they aren’t even apples! the apple

is never an apple, ask Eve, bruh. Ask Jeeves clearly or you’ll regret

it. fuck it, forget it: i don’t think T. P. is funny but i do think he’s

funny funny like (again, our darling OED): Unusual or odd; curious.

clotted sign, cloying signifier. congealed New Rochelle white sauce

[waxy over, you guessed it, white noodles] feat. steamed normandy

vegetables. which means whatever i make it:


A] funny as shit: sex­toy­boy­top­monogamish­dude

on Black art over the whitest food my eye ever did spy,

when i just want him on me, lol.


B] strange, the stranger, and the strangest. a billfold

of snow. my mother dead yesterday,

maybe 200 years ago.


C] it’s not good? he say [expectant with bill paying power for the evening].

nah, it’s alright.  i say [headlights in plexiglas / are you my angel?].

you wanna get something else?

he say [your jaw? sex? a particular chicken dish?].

nah, it’s fine. i say [welcome to Slippery Slope pop. one where we love our bell hooks

and our Yeezys and our Django’s chains ‘cause who doesn’t want Jamie’s beautiful black his blue steel

graze? who isn’t confused all the time? who doesn’t want to eat but doesn’t not want to eat or be awake or

alive or dead or attached to these legs again? who wants legs again? who can show a little leg and live

through the exposure? who can throw me up / ankleside to touch the purpling sky? who can give me

something to cry ‘bout?better: who can give me a good reason why?



KAMDEN HILLIARD goes by Kam, is an Editor at Jellyfish Magazine, and the author of two chapbooks DISTRESS TOLERANCE (Magic Helicopter Press, 2016) and PERCEIVED DISTANCE FROM IMPACT (Black Lawrence Press, 2017). He got good vibes from The Ucross Foundation, Callaloo, and The Davidson Institute. Find Kam’s work in The Black Warrior Review, Gigantic Sequins, Lambda Literary, Redivider, and other sunspots. He has no chill and wonders if you’ve got some to spare.