months of letters mid-air before I knew her face, many more weeks before I could look at it directly one middle finger tracing the back of a middle knuckle a meditation an introduction to touch if you listen past breath, you can hear the sound a woman’s skin makes on another’s skin: a prayer a welcome the luminescence of oil: how she makes a body shine even in its earthness (still, sometimes, I fear she’ll turn or return to ivy) how I hold back my breath, my pulse, the full weight of my mouth, so she knows my reverence and desire in perfect balance This is a poem in moments kind and cautious: each deliberation a devotion, every exploration a sanctity we cannot bear to reduce to romance
with a line by Regina Spektor
I stand outside a New Orleans coffeeshop in an Indiana town, my face all summer sun, having just decided I will let my lover love his wife. This is how I remember romance: a rubber band. The longing in its pull, the welt left by its snap. I left soulmate on a curb outside an abandoned gas station, fate and destiny its burned-out neon signs. I tucked god in a bright white nativity and walked away. I know there's no such thing as mine. But reverence. Abandon. This hulking, dramatic beast, roaring against its harness, my hands raw from the leash. I know there's no such thing as mine. Still I seek a yard where it is safe for him to play.
If you love something set it free. If it comes back, it’s yours.
A well-loved toddler will venture further from its mother A neglected child will cling. I am the mother who lets myself go, I am the child who returns. If I forget either mother or child, I may cling to you. When I do, set me free. Watch me return over and over to myself.
I keep trying to remove myself from love, extract ego like a mass, irradiate adoration to wither any lingering whiff of self so I can see it clearly—what is facet, what is fragment. I wore white shoes to my confirmation and now I hold everything to that standard of purity. I want love so clean that when I put my self back into it, I can forego fear. Peel off every edge of need. Find love a fencepost, its root so deep and concrete I could never bend it to my aching will. If I could anoint your feet with oil, would you find me right after the resurrection? Would you love me like a fencepost, manmade and immobile? In all my mythology, there are only two loves: selfish and selfless. Both have fractured me.
and you are sure you’re doing all this wrong. You commend yourself for stretching deeper than the old women on either side, you admire the tendons rippling in your foot and still, you can't figure out how to love. You don't smell it yet, but next week, if it’s still warm enough for bikes, their dying will certainly reach you. Always the grieving, even for the squirrels who escape, who remember where their past is buried. Is this your mother’s voice? Still overruling your own? It’s cuffing season—everyone is knitting their socks together, making sacrifices, waiting for the sun to stop trying so hard. You pedal faster past the browning flowers and hope
after Ocean Vuong
Krista, do not fight your grief. Your throat is an eruption but lava forges worlds. Close your eyes. Your mother went dormant long ago and you live so far from the caldera, now. Yes, you still burn on the back of a shoulder, the tip of your index finger, each of your tear ducts, but here, now, you no longer smell of smoke. Krista, you are safe. You know the size of your footprint in ash and, love, it has grown so large. Here is a bed with sheets of water. Here is a fireproof lover. Krista, do you remember how to rest? Stomach still as an aftermath? Forget the summit. Forget the men buried in your cliffs. If you shudder long enough, you can shake their anchors from your angry skin. Some day, you will wake to find your mother crumbling into some distant sea. Here is a sky so clear, just waiting to be filled. I promise— I promise you, this smoldering is not your ruin.
My poem “Fisher of Women” is in the July issue of Glass: A Journal of Poetry.
for a wife. You want to bore
a hole and pull out
salvation. You want someone to
skin and fillet. Someone to replace
the chilled lips of the
bluegill pressed against
the icy line of your
mouth in your
favorite profile picture.
Someone slightly less
slippery. Someone slightly
more alive. I can tell you’re a
tender man by the way you
remove the hook.
Check it out for audio, more information about the poem, and to read the rest of the issue.
My poem “Made in China” is up at The Humanist. Excerpt:
I wonder how many millions
of small white worm
cocoons were unraveled to make
his tie. I imagine vast fields
of them, confined and shining,
hanging somewhere in an overseas
warehouse under yellow lights
lost to dust.
Thank you to Jennifer Bardi, Editor in Chief at The Humanist, for publishing it!
Another poem of mine is up at Columbia Journal. It’s called “The Privacy Rights of Individuals” and is about North Carolina’s HB2, otherwise known as “the Bathroom Bill.” The title is taken from the ironic statement of Governor Pat McCrory in defense of the bill:
I’m proud of us protecting the privacy rights of individuals and not putting burdensome regulations on business and letting them make the decision, not government make the decision.
The poem begins:
There’s this line of white faces
in cisgender suits standing
in front of the toilet
at Safeway. Their arms are locked
together but it’s not in a gay way
they’ll tell you
without being asked.