The University of Akron Press | Poem for July 2018

“Cussing in the Playground” by Oliver de la Paz


The poem “Cussing in the Playground” appears in the poetry collection Requiem for the Orchard by Oliver de la Paz, published by The University of Akron Press as part of the Akron Series in Poetry. Visit to order a copy of Oliver’s book and to browse other Akron Series in Poetry books.

Cussing in the Playground

I was irreverent in my youth. Not a hair of mine
was trained on words I said. At the first red flare,

I’d hurl curses. They were bees spiraling out of me.
Sometimes I wanted to gather them in the playground

with my bare hands, I thought, much like guiding water
into a plastic bag. I was stung for my wretchedness frequently.

At times I was the hollow place between my clavicle
and my neck. Troublesome, I was uncomfortable with eye contact

because of their slant and so I became troublesome . . . often sidelong.
Little mastications dotted my ears, telling me to shut up. So I would

clamp shut my heathen mouth. There was nothing
to prove to God or otherwise. In the untimely event of my death,

I decided I would look up. And if there were a blemish
on my face my mouth won’t falter.

Oliver de la Paz is the author of four books of poetry: Names Above Houses, Furious Lullaby, Requiem for the Orchard, and Post Subject: A Fable. He is the co-editor of A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poems and the co-chair of’s advisory board. He teaches creative writing in the MFA program at Western Washington University.

(Cover image courtesy of The University of Akron Press.