Destiny O. Birdsong


Destiny O. Birdsong is a Louisiana-born poet, essayist, and fiction writer who lives and writes in Nashville, Tennessee. Her poems have either appeared or are forthcoming in the Paris Review, African American Review, The BreakBeat Poets Presents: Black Girl Magic, and elsewhere. Her critical work recently appeared in African American Review and The Cambridge Companion to Transnational American Literature. Destiny has won the Academy of American Poets Prize, Naugatuck River Review’s 2016 Poetry Contest, Meridian’s 2017 “Borders” Contest in Poetry, and the Richard G. Peterson Poetry Prize from Crab Orchard Review (2019). She has received support from Cave Canem, Callaloo, Jack Jones Literary Arts, Pink Door, The MacDowell Colony, The Ragdale Foundation, and Tin House, where she was a 2018 Summer Workshop Scholar. Her debut poetry collection, Negotiations, will be published by Tin House Books in Fall 2020. Source

failed avoidance of 'the body' in a poem

after TJ Jarrett


your therapist wants to know where

in your body you most feel your anxiety.


you tell her in the bones

behind your face. they have their own


music, like ptolemy’s universe,

and chirp like shuriken


dancing in the road. your therapist says

you hurt because there are things


you’ve never been taught to do:

how to hold yourself in sleep.


how to drive. how to live with men.

back when you were five—or maybe four—


your father knelt before you for the last

time, close enough


that you could smell him, a zephyr

of kool’s filter kings and leaving.


he pushed the tricycle toward you, purple and white

streamers limp as hair on the handlebars.


by the time you mounted the cranium-shaped

seat, he was gone.


your new goal is to learn to breathe

through bones, to make flutes of them.


although, in reality, you are much more supple:

a crooked fold of flesh that comes so quickly


when called. you are the warm-bellied

animal on the shoulder,


coated in sunscreen and your father’s curiosity:

white-haired possum with his green, green eyes.


you’re now the oldest you may ever be.

you have never before been this afraid.


there are no bodies bound to rush in the room

when your own becomes a bullet ringing the tiles.


you know all about “love’s austere and lonely

offices”: checking your stools for blood.


checking your breasts for lumps. checking your neck

for swelling nodes. checking the locks,


the coffeepot, all the cracked

eyes blinking fire on the kitchen stove.


your own weep against a pillowcase

you haven’t washed, stiff with the


miasma of your hair. you stare

at pictures of the girlfriend grinning in sunlight.


you feel bad for not being taken with yourself more,

but your body is all asymptotes and fractals.


your own skin splinters in the dark

from your dense heat. the pieces


come back together under a halo of prescriptions

steeping your head in yellow light. sometimes,


while combing your hair, a sliver of cartilage

lodges in your finger pad. you lick


the glittering blood and spit out the shard.

compared to your father, this is not unkind.


somewhere between your skull and the skin

that swaddles it, all the songs you didn’t know


you needed to learn from him appear

and vanish with the rhythm of your breathing.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:




Health & Illness

Literary Devices:

After Poems

A poem where the form, theme, subject, style, or line(s) is inspired by the work another poet.


an expression designed to call something to mind without mentioning it explicitly; an indirect or passing reference


a figure of speech in which words repeat at the beginning of successive clauses, phrases, or sentences


two lines of verse, usually in the same meter and joined by rhyme, that form a unit

Interrupted Clause

a word group (a statement, question, or exclamation) that interrupts the flow of a sentence and is usually set off by commas, dashes, or parentheses


Initially a prayer or supplication used in formal and religious processions, the litany has been more recently adopted as a poetic form that catalogues a series. This form typically includes repetitious phrases or movements, sometimes mimicking call-and-response.

Media Res

a literary work that begins in the middle of the action (from the Latin “into the middle of things)


a comparison between two unrelated things through a shared characteristic


a comparison between two unlike things using the words “like” or “as”