Autopsy by Donte Collins


I read a lot of poetry collections, and a fair amount I don’t finish, and of the ones I do, a fair amount I wish I hadn’t.

This is not one of them.

This blew me away. The precision, the lexical linguistics, the imagery, the goddamn precision – it’s all here. I’ve had this book on my desk for a month or so as I haven’t wanted to return it to the library, despite having read it. Twice.

I’m also now thinking of buying a copy.

Autopsy is a book about grief. It is exactly the right length and hits all the marks it should. It opens with a wonderful prologue, which, although appears to not, actually sets the scene well – the narrator in the uber with (not his, but) someone’s mother. Also, I sent this opening to my nephew to get him to read more poetry as I knew it would make him laugh:


besides, her name is diane & she only has this job
because her niece says she should be more social

This book is not despressing, as you might think, being about grief. It is a beautiful rumination on losing a mother, on being a gay black man who lost his mother. It is also experimental with form, in that best way (a way that works, and seems almost unnoticeable). And for anyone who has grieved you will recognise every word and line.

It’s almost impossible to pick one poem out as an example, as they are so interlinked, but I’ll leave you with this:

after Mary Lou Collins

someone who is dead now taught you
how best to clean up your blood. then
how to clean up blood when it is not
your own. how to push from your elbow
properly sweep a floor, spell c o n t I n u e

three syllables donte, go on & like a god
or a bird, or a boy salted with grief, you
want the earth to kneel for you, want every
clock to confess its slick motive. to say,
suddenly, that death is only a joke

the earth’s biggest punchline. she’s been
gone 15,840 minutes & you have felt the
godless storm of each of them, are waiting
for your mother to walk into her funeral, to
sit next to all of her children at once, to lean
into the soft of her shoulder, for her to whisper
it’s okay son, i’m here now, i’m here


You can reserve a copy on South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

One thought on “Autopsy by Donte Collins

  1. Pingback: (My) Books of the Year | South Dublin Reads

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