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Must a Violence

Oni Buchanan

Publication Year: 2012

Oni Buchanan explores the problem of violence against the undefended, elemental self through a variety of emotional and linguistic responses. The violation itself is unspecified but involves the forced transformation from an instinctual, animal self, housed in the body and in the senses, into a socialized, time-based “citizen,” familiar with death, decay, and systemic injustice.
This exploration plays out through the twin challenges of perception and compassion. Perception can bind us to the known world or cut us loose in dangerous, horrific territory. Compassion for other creatures (wild or domesticated, and sometimes both) is born of perception, of the hard limits and surprising insights encountered by attending to the bodies, gestures, and plights of others.
In Must a Violence, the tones and personalities vary widely but trust is always placed in the five senses. These poems gather and relay extraordinary sense data, from inaudible sounds to long-absent smells. These deeply musical poems demand the reader attend to their sounds: to the waveforms, repetitions, durations, and delicate interrelationships of words.

In sounding out the problem of how to respond to violence and to the betrayal and domestication of that which is wild, this book counters with aesthetic violence and disruption of its own, opening the self to the unexpected powers of the senses and to encounters between "wildness" and "domestication" within the self. Though never easy, this openness creates the possibility for an all-enveloping love that touches and joins all animals, both nonhuman and human. 

Published by: University of Iowa Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. 8-9

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Then From Our Green Branch

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pp. 3-4

then the “safety net” they held under a branch then they hit the branch with a stick and all of us who weren’t holding tight right at that second, or if we...

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No Blue Morpho

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pp. 5-8

I wanted the Blue Morpho to anoint me with his fragility I was in his presence in the tent of butterflies he did not land...

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When All the Leaves

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pp. 9-11

When all the leaves fell the wasp nest hung in its gray paper, bobbing in the empty air When all the autumn leaves fell...

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The Cheshire Cat

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pp. 12-13

A visitor had abandoned his heavy luggage in the corner of my bedroom, leather suitcases unbuckled and various garments spilling out. Alone in my diaphanous and ruffled nightgown, I sauntered over to examine...

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An Infection

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pp. 14-16

An infection had crept in beneath the dermis and spread subcutaneously clinging to the underside of the skin. The underside of the skin was the ceiling of the infection...

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December 24

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pp. 17-18

The sirens are wailing down Washington Street. Down Washington Street the bunched cars part to either curb. In the square’s center, an immense pine tree stands strung with lights by the bank placard...

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A Long Blue Distance

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pp. 19-20

The designated “Military Area” had no structure anywhere in sight, just an exit ramp leading off the main road and disappearing entirely into a curve of scorched hillside...

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"He Who Roams the Plains”

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pp. 21-22

I am the dream of the Serengeti as its drowsy gold expanse dozes under cloud shadows. As the spotted surface of the sleeping field, I lift away, am sewn together in the breeze— a tall dream filled with length and hay...

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If You Love an Animal

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pp. 23-28

I’m making myself cry. I’m looking at myself in the mirror crying, which makes me cry. “Look, I’m crying,” I sob. But no one hears me. No one. Because I’m deserted and neglected and alone...


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pp. 29-30

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Chant of the Killing Jar

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pp. 31-33

What’s that iridescence in the Killing Jar? What’s that buzzing in the Killing Jar? Is it you buzzing? Is it me buzzing?...

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Tactical Subordinates

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pp. 34-36

Tactical Subordinates Valuable Subordinates Foreign Subordinates Alleged Subordinates Circumstantial Subordinates...

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Don’t Fall, Baba

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pp. 37-38

Don’t fall, Baba. It’s hard being a mom, isn’t it. I read somewhere the tragedy of being a mom is that your child will never love you as much as you love your...

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I Heard Her Long Hair Making Five Sounds

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pp. 39-40

I heard the sound of a bolt of her hair as she brushed a broad wave of it away from the left side of her face and over her shoulder—I heard it lift into the air and subside again, a brief kite, or a sail for the body...

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Five Tiny Doves

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pp. 41-44

It was clear she had carefully considered which jagged rock from the pile of rocks provided for the purpose. Her pitching arm was...

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Palais de Mari

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pp. 45-48

It is as much what can be heard through it as it is its own notated tones: concentrated globes like colored droplets sinking through a viscous sky, the droplets dilute themselves with the volume around them, some steadily descend, some hover and ramify (bleed)...

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p. 49-49

— for the Real Animals, the coded animals with their finite sequences, live in a physical space surrounded by all the versions they could have been, the invisible, the Almost Animals, almost...

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The Worms

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pp. 50-51

The worms were tapping on my forehead. They tapped with the blunt ends of their mouths. They were testing the sturdiness of the ground. They were testing the quality of the sediment...

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17-Year Diagnosis

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pp. 52-54

I photograph myself beneath a street sign indicating an evacuation route. I collect dehydrated foods...

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Two-Starred Constellation

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pp. 55-58

I’m not sure so how am I supposed to say this so how am I supposed to broach this kind of topic There is one subtracted, two subtracted more, more, one at a time...


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pp. 59-60

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Little Pig

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pp. 61-76

That’s right, Little Pig, you’re allowed to do anything you want. That’s right, Little Pig. You’re allowed...


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pp. 77-78

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Must a Violence

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pp. 79-82

Must a violence be administered Must a violence be enacted upon Must a violence be had to oneself Must a violence be endured Must an unanticipated violence...

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pp. 83-85

Well it started when I wondered if I had something to say and I did not. So much work needs to get done anyway. Some songs need to be photocopied for the routine...

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Attention Span

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pp. 86-88

A cupcake will not solve this. A shared ice cream treat with hot fudge will not solve it. Things are accidentally spilled, toppled, my contempt grows. Finish one motion...

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The Occupation

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pp. 89-90

You see, it really is a lot of work because there is a lot of mud, you see, especially when it rains so much like it has and makes mud upon mud, mud all the way down, and then it really becomes...

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Jury Duty

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pp. 91-92

But of course the limits of our perception are so severe. I just don’t understand how I’m supposed to sit for jury duty and that somehow it’s my duty as a flawed citizen...

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This Here Minute

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pp. 93-94

“Don’t make me choose between you,” she said from the recesses of her heavy fabric curtain. I heard her flip an egg timer to measure the minutes of this portion...

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pp. 95-96

Oh life which I hate Oh wading pool of dirt and runoff Oh tree chipper roaring and chewing and spitting out again Oh curly, curly pig tail sprightly on the pig bottom...

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Sometimes a Body

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pp. 97-98

It’s hard to see things differently without the person without the voice of the person, but more, the body that holds the voice, the body that moves from one side of the room to the other...

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Has His Smell and Taste

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pp. 99-102

Has his smell changed in any way or become offensive to you No I love his smell, he smells the same Are you still in love with how he smells and how he tastes Yes I love his smell and taste...


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pp. 103-104

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The Wild Rabbit

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p. 105-105

They froze hard, stared at one another from the sides of their heads—the wild rabbit, muscular on his haunches, and Sergei, soft, fluffy and plump, bred a jet black not of the natural world. Who can know what thoughts...

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Outsource the Burning

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pp. 106-107

Here they come again—yes they’re stopping to inhale—here they are at the bushes, shaking the branch first to scare the bees away before they dip their faces into the flowers...

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Otherworldly Thirst

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pp. 108-109

The rats are out drinking at the edges of puddles. Their thirst is unquenchable. They wash their bodies clean...

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This World

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pp. 110-111

The sailboats are out on the river. The colors are out; all the leaves are out; the blue sky, cold and clear...

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pp. 112-113

Six or seven yards behind you in the city smog a man carrying a dog like a toddler (its front paws around his neck) calls your name, or what could only...

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I Was a Whale

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pp. 114-116

I was a whale extending a flipper I rolled over and over to feel the water coursing over my powerful...

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Younger and Younger

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pp. 117-118

The clouds are stuck in the tops of trees down there on the mountain. They make it look like a fire burning at the root of the forest, a ground fire, somehow,...

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The Sun Turns Like a Pinwheel

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pp. 119-120

A raft stretches behind our mother and we are on it, tethered to her strokes. The sun turns like a pinwheel. We saw it from our network...

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p. 121-121

Sincere thanks to the editors of the following journals, in which poems from this book first appeared (with special thanks to Katie Ford...

Further Reading

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p. 122-122

Back Cover

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p. 123-123

E-ISBN-13: 9781609381332
Print-ISBN-13: 9781609381295

Page Count: 94
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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