The wildly imaginative poems in this new collection, the latest in the McSweeney’s Poetry Series, bring to life a speaker struggling to find a balance between familial pressure and personal identity, religious faith and a recognition of the world’s calamities. An Iraqi Jewish American and graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Daniel Khalastchi’s much-anticipated follow-up to his award-winning debut is a surreal cri de coeur—a darkly humorous wonderland too fantastical and fresh to be doubted.
Praised by Rae Armantrout as a “dream-gym” in which “desire, doubt, and abjection (those old favorites) get a workout,” Tradition is available for purchase now, and we are pleased to share a selection from its pages below.
Hormone Elevation Sonnet
(Originally appeared in Court Green)
You wake me up saying, hurry, hurry, grab the
chainsaw. I don’t think we
have a chainsaw, but you point
to the corner where I usually keep
my salon-quality hair loss treatment and I
follow you, back-bent through the stair-
well, revving steel teeth against a full-set night. When
we get to a gas station, you ask
for some money and tell me that
whenever the moon is so
low and in focus you feel like a Chinese
war prisoner pulling live
mice through a collapsing
urinal hole. In my pockets, I don’t
have any money. I try to
apologize but you just sit on the
curb listing all the better sexual
experiences you’ve had until I realize, finally,
what the chainsaw
is for. A few minutes
later, I bring you a bag of cash, three wet
cartons of cigarettes, and a thick black
T-shirt with a fanged howling wolf
ironed on in profile. With all the
commotion, I say, I never got to check the size. It’s
okay, you respond. Sometimes my
breasts remind you of terriers. These
are the things we can sell to the sheriff.
You can purchase Tradition here.