Jamaal May, In the LA Review of Books

In Jamaal May’s Hum, its onomatopoetic title refers to the humming of motors (usually in cars) and to the humming of humans. These parallel frequencies (or movements) of sound intersect in a young man growing up in Detroit. As he perceives the particulars of urban life and landscape, he begins to see himself manifested in the city’s physicality. Notice the place, notice his body:

Look for me
in scattered windshield beneath an overpass,
on the sculpture of a man with metal skin grafts,
in patterns of mud-draggled wood, feathers
circling leaves in rainwater — look. Even the blade
of a knife holds my quickly fading likeness
while I run out of ways to say I am here.

Juxtaposing the city and the body — metal and glass mixing with flesh — brings forth unsettling imagery that gestures toward the vulnerability that both entities share. More to the point, it makes Detroit as mortal and susceptible to pain or damage as its inhabitants:


And come see Jamaal at Litfest 2014


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