Natalie J. Graham


A native of Gainesville, Florida, Natalie Graham earned her M.F.A. in Creative Writing at the University of Florida and Ph.D. in American Studies at Michigan State University. Her poems have appeared in Callaloo, New England Review, Valley Voices: A Literary Review, and Southern Humanities Review; and her articles have appeared in The Journal of Popular Culture and Transition. She is a Cave Canem fellow and associate professor of African American Studies at California State University, Fullerton. Begin with a Failed Body, her first full-length collection of poems, won the 2016 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Source

Gallery Songs

for Cynthia


I. If you want to buy my wares…


In the gallery, Desperation and Need are not for sale,

neither is Night’s Mist,


but you can buy What Makes Love 


Come, see:


the crescent of her body in the clutch of need,


the drenched mop of her body

cutting the red flame with its shadows,


these small photos you can buy.


II. What Makes Love Fade?


Money or Lack, Noise or Silence,

I answer expertly.


I am a scientist, dissecting

this heart like a greasy frog,

handlings its limp tubes

with my metal fingers.


III. Estas son las mañanitas…


You said my heart hopped

like a rana and sang me a frog song,

rubbing your fingers on me,

fingers that you think are crooked.


Sana, sana, heal, heal,

you sang, if not today, mañana,

rubbing your hands on me,

hands too small to hide a strawberry.


Despierta, mi bien, despierta,

I want to touch you

while you are wide awake

with my dirty mouth.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:




Love & Relationships

Literary Devices:


a short quotation or saying at the beginning of a book or chapter, intended to suggest its theme


a comparison between two unrelated things through a shared characteristic


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