>

poetry

20: on the subject of tomorrow (psychological dependence)

I wrote a letter to myself 
four years ago saying 
I would never be able to live without 
another hit of this. 

I wrote a letter saying 
if ever I found myself in a time 
when addiction disconnected 
and I was going fine in the future 

without the feel of her sting 
rushing into blood, 
then a part of me would 
pull at the loose threads of time 

til it came apart 
just above the head of the past 
so it could tell once-me 
that now-me had made some mistake 

and only for the sake of one-day-me’s future 
we should go back to that dark place 
where I found the love I thought I wanted 
rushing over my skin like madness; 

I wrote a letter to myself 
saying that I had no right 
to cleanse myself of this 
wretched feeling dining on my spirit from within. 

Damn the man who wrote it, 
damn the life he thought he lived 
if he held his breath and thought ‘love, love’ 
out loud long enough that he’d feel better. 

He never felt better. 
He still felt ashy and 
broken, he knew this high wouldn’t last. 
And then the future came.

19: prometheans

History is full of old men 
telling new adults that they should 
never save children from making 
what they do not know are mistakes. 
The newest is an angel I met 
with concrete on all his limbs, 
every wing clasped in solid grey, 
his legs of light twisted and his 
face no longer of glory but 
of stone. He said I was lovely, that 
he had come right from the office 
that said I was lovely, that he 
had come to let me know because 
their files said I didn’t know yet so 
he had come right from the office 
to kiss me on the lips like wet 
sweet truth and now he wasn’t 
sure if he was lovely either and 
I said, ‘that’s what the earth does 
to you, it’s lovely itself in all its 
treachery, it is a sight, it is a 
magic all its own, and that’s why 
we stop to watch it, but it can take 
your self-love from you long enough, 
if you stare at it through you and not 
at you through it’. I wanted to see his light. 
I wanted to see his light so bad 
and feel what holiness would feel like 
against the s(k)in, would it feel like 
nicotine and joy and being tipsy 
enough to disappear through the touch 
but sober enough to remember it? 
God, I wanted to see his light, 
was that sinful, to want to kiss an angel? 
I cried, I wanted it so badly. 
He cried, too, the kind of cry that 
watered little seeds in his new-stone face 
til I could see his pupils become daisies. 
He said he wanted to see my light too, 
God, he wanted to see my light too, 
was that sinful, to want to kiss God’s own 
image, the bodyguards of space? 
God, look upon your creation with pity 
at how our skin whimpers with want, 
how could you put us in a place where 
love is so addictive and then lock us 
out of twenty-four/seven love and 
watch the withdrawal shakes take us?

18: songs hummed during awkward silences

Hey, yes, I’ve seen you.
And then there is an absence,
a kind of apophasis
with our projections of lost time
held inside them. We haven’t
spoken in a while. Who knows
how many things we’ve buried then,
and how deep, and why and who
was wrong. If you heard a lie from
an old wound before you met me
here in this cafeteria, what do I do?
Play it straight? Bow gracefully and
draw the line or the bulls-eye softly
til you notice? Do you remember
my name? Do you need to?
How’s life been? Have you been
winning all its trials? Do you need
to count all my losses and ties?
Does it matter? You know
I’m alive, and between that and you is
a kind of apophasis.
We nod, you stare into
the space I momentarily fill.
Exactly an hour from now you
will never hear from me again
one more time, forget the reason
why, never notice the quiet,
stare into it with no effect.

17: first movement

I am not strident, 
neither am I agrarian; 
there’s nothing magical about me, 
and there’s less that’s real; 
I am always offbeat. 
I mean something, but 
what do I mean? 
A loved one may tell you, 
'he's about unrequited desire, 
or else he’s about manhood, 
or else he’s about this really strong drive 
to remind you where drumming came from; 
oh, and if there’s been a song in 
his head for the past few days, 
one he loves, one he hates, you 
better be sure it’s going to be his refrain’. 
Maybe they’ll call us the Worst Indeed school, 
because that’s where we ate lunch and lamented 
the glare of the sun against the window of humanity, 
that’s where we had all our meetings, all our fights, 
a few of our first kisses; our convictions have been 
stuck under all their food court benches. 
But what does that mean? 
I danced on the other side of Agostini Street and 
I danced under the trees by the parking lot and 
University Drive has been signed with the bottom of my sneakers and 
maybe that should mean something by itself, 
but everyone else planted a universal ideal. 
Something grander than ‘here are words 
and I want you to have them because they’re 
more precious than their causes 
or my causes or the First Cause or 
you. I don’t ever want to make something 
that says it’s good just because I wasted a 
couple shades of graphite; I want meaning to 
be its water and its seed, and I keep looking for 
good seed, and people have them, Whitman does, 
and Dickinson, and Atwood swims in good water 
and has her feet pressed against good soil, 
they won’t stop growing. 
Am I a weed? Only weeds 
don’t know what they mean, only 
weeds don’t have petals of a certain shade. 
I guess I can even do with being violet or blue, pink 
would be nice, even, but what colour am I? 
Am I a weed? 

16: when dark-skinned girls have to vape in a video just to think Chris Brown is worth shit enough to stick around in the gotdamn video (These Dawgs Ain’t Loyal)

(Someone tell Lil Wayne 
buy a vowel 
and stop calling me ‘baby’) 

When a rude nigga want ya 
and the rap game can’t do nothin’ for ya 
these dawgs ain’t loyal 
(don’t know) these girls still royal 

Trying to stay the same
I could opt out of the game
I could make a thug nigga tame 
but all these thug niggas lame 

tried to teach a dawg but go figure 
that if you call Chris Brown ‘hitta’ 
he’ll get hype if you say ‘Jigga’ 
shading all circles from ‘thug’ to triggers 

he wanna get love (get love) 
Chris just want a hug (a hug) 
but he done screwed up 
getting stood up at the club

they think they can dance in quick paces 
to get back into queen’s good graces 
but there ain’t no footwork enough 
to forget fists, right? tough… 

come on, come on, man, 
why you frontin’? 
brutha, you ain’t nothin’; 
suit and tie don’t mean you there yet, 
all the lyrics won’t make us forget; 
come on, come on, man, 
why you frontin’? 
brutha, you ain’t nothin’; 
you done tried to hide your wicked 
but you still want a girl to kick it? 

ladies, when a rude nigga want ya 
and the rap game can’t do nothin’ for ya 
these dawgs ain’t loyal 
(can’t see) these girls still royal… 

15: broken in every direction

One war
is all I can afford,

No more.

Hey, look high, and we look low
We never find our enemy
We never find our enemy.
Somehow, this war is out of control,
We never find our enemy
We’re gunning down whatever breathes.

They tell me I 
shouldn’t call a man a 
traitor. I think things, 
though, about the man who 
stands beside the place 
the knife in my back came from. 

Far too often 
did he tell me 
I’d broken down after 
we’d broken up 
but on his cups of compassion, 
once locked up from me, 
I can find her fingerprints, and 
scrapes where her nails would have 

rested on the brass. 
They trade battle codes, 
talk about the wars I’ve 
come back with the scars of, 
discuss deposing, 
discuss death. 

I’m the bitter one, 
surely, 
for having this sudden ache 
every few days 
deep in the wound 
from what was once 
love. 

This betrayal 
leaves shards of me 
everywhere, in every direction, 
fists in the air, 
jaw on the floor, 
mind misplaced deep in my room 
somewhere past old letters and 
books we read aloud together. 

Shouldn’t I rightly think 
a thing about a man 
who stands behind my 
murderer and smiles, 
hand around waist, 
lying and calling me liar, 
frowning that I would refuse 
to accept bleeding now? 

He says I started 
this. So why am I 
the one who bled the most, 
took soldiers with me, 
only tea leaves and poetry 
for bandages as we 
wrapped ourselves in the trenches 
as war was declared? 

What first stab 
did I make, brother? 
Let me know. 
Or stay in your ranks 
and know 

I think things 
of enemy combatants.

14: customer service

you will call me close 
and inquire about me. 
you will ask me about my 
sleep cycle at four in the morning. 
you will ask me to 
comfort you when something’s gone wrong 
and won’t ask before you hang up 
if there has been anything sharp or 
gruesome on my end of the line. 
you will tell me 
you wish everything was different 
and i will tell you 
there’s a change rolling down on its way 
and you will get really annoyed 
and hang up. 
you will not call for weeks. 
you will call back weeks later still 
and ask why 
we stopped doing this. 

the answer is because 
you can’t think of a thing 
that comes purely out of me 
that you feel impassioned to hear, 
so i will shut up and 
be a fountain for whatever living water 
you’d prefer to drink, 
i’ll be a little box for you to 
put your feelings in, 

and then the box will break 
and you will get really annoyed 
and hang up. 

ask me if 
the night is cold. 
ask me if 
the knife is cold. 
ask me if 
i get flustered sometimes 

and want to call someone 
and put my hurt away 
just like some other people do. 

there’s someone else 
i wish i could bother anywhere 
near enough to talk to 
about the murmurs of my heart, 
because if only she could find another 
hour of the day lying prone beneath her 
couch, she’d oblige me; 

you have a bit more hours, 
and they are all hours for you, 
and i wish at least you’d stop telling me, then, 
that when my body’s rent 

i should pull myself together 
for you.

13: bookmark

When I meet someone I think is lovely, 
I want to find the remote for 
the passage of time, 

and press pause, 
just for a moment, 
so I could come to terms with the fact 
that I don’t know anything valuable 
about what comes next. 

I only know ice-breaker games
and riddles about your past, 
and the top of my 
nodding head is my best quality. 
I think you’re precious, you 
have no idea how much 

(I can’t tell you, 
that’s why you don’t know, 
please don’t ask). 

I keep bookmarks for every 
rose-word I’ve watered 
on your lips 
with questions. 
Drill me about my intent, 
and I’d be direct - 

you’re precious, 
you’re precious, 
if I could keep a covenant with you 
right here under this street lamp 
in the middle of this moment 
you’d have me all to yourself, 

but you have no idea, 
I can’t tell you. 

I’ve put the covers down 
over this other mark, too. 
I’ll return, maybe, 
if you’ll give me patience.

12: wreck collection

I can count every piece of you 
now. You’re quite finite, in 
hindsight, and I’m really 
grateful for that. 

I can still imagine you, 
tongue on fire, and me, 
rushing with a bucket only 
to hear you say, 

'what business is this 
of yours?’; sometimes, when 
my eyes are closed, I 
still chase you down dark 

alleys where you’ve just 
taken another sip of your own doubt 
and come after shadows with 
the bottle because you swore 

I had kissed one of them, 
a lamp post, a mailbox, 
a firefly, while you were 
out ignoring me on your 

parents’ orders. I thought 
a lot of things about your 
individual shards, but now 
I can count every piece of you, 

your empathetic, your stirring, 
your draconic, your jagged, 
your all and always broken, 
every naked knife you’re made of. 

I thought you were one, 
and then, the one, 
and then, the only one. 
But lovers lie, 

that was merely the first lie 
of many. 
In fact, I only think we ever 
said but one thing honestly between us.

11: bone-dry

put your hand on my cheek. 
feel how arid it’s been, 
for want of a tear or a 
kiss, for want of a word. 
there have been very few 
comforts afforded to this skin; 
it’s grown rude and sharp, 
and wilder, stranger things grow 
from underneath. someone 
once told me that when it 
rains in the desert it will 
rain more than you can imagine. 
once is more than I can imagine. 
once is enough for something 
lovely to break through a stone. 
once is more than I can imagine. 

10: the sound of hope

the sound of hope is harsh. 
it doesn’t get what it want
right all the time, it is just 
learning its words. it will usually 
cry for what it wants instead; 
it will usually just sit and 
hope you know that it was 
there when you walk past. 
hope would rather not 
panhandle. but hope has 
neither seen coin nor meat, 
neither felt cloth nor heat 
in such a while 
that the silence of its gods 
sends it mad with doubt. 
hope wants to not have 
to join the ranks of wandering 
doted masses. it would rather 
not panhandle. so it makes 
something brash with its hands, 
it forges a drum or some 
lute and makes something 
that makes you join it, 
just for a sliver of the 
busyness you’ve already made, 
and look at it. 

9: troll sphinx

the difference between left and right
In space there is a rift, vertical; there is a fence that is always going down your nosebridge. Nothing else is different besides. Your eyes will tell you different; if your ear bleeds, you will find a word for the side of the fence you choose. Nothing else is different besides. History says one side is blessed by Godliness and the other is beset with witches. Nothing else is different besides. 

namelessly describing a single colour
Imagine a cut that never bleeds. Imagine the wineskin of goddess-wine opening itself above you. Imagine adding pure light to pure blood. Imagine all the tutus and girls’ building blocks down the aisle in a row and what the thing you say is when this upsets you. I prefer the second imagination, myself. 

what is a colour that doesn’t exist
I want to be that crab that can see light like dreams, whose eyes are attuned to every hum of our little screwed-up home, who can put its pincers around the shapes of it. I can already imagine colours that are just at the edges of rainbows, because they are the leftovers, because they are disappearances, because they are pure light mixed with pure blood. I don’t want to name the rest that we can’t find; it would upset me so. 

the taste of water
There is a blankness. There is a total, effortless quenching, a plain where all you need is there. It is enough, and maybe enough is more than you can need.

8: stations of want

1. Prelude
Behind my eyes 
is a soft garden 
where you lie waiting 
for something to find you. 
It will be hard enough 
to sip blood from your lips 
and gentle enough to ask 
for permission first. 
I imagine you enjoying 
being drunk from. 
I’d ask first 
if you are actually there, 
in that place with me, 
but that would involve 
sharing all sorts of other truths besides. 

2. Foreplay
You have set a trap for me 
with your lips 
and I have fallen all the way 
in. 
Your eyes have caught me 
and dragged me down into you, 
and all I can hope for 
is that if I tell you all these secret things 
that I have thought about this snare 
when you could not hear me gasp, 
at least my imprisonment 
will be the kind of torture 
I hold close to 
when the night is cold. 

3. The Act
There is no better sound 
than jazz, 
and there is no better instrument 
than a body. 
I know where every note 
can come from, 
and I am here solely to 
find each one. 
From your lips 
come everything 
a thing like me can want: 
from one, sweet wine, 
from the other, sweet music, 
from both a joy 
that can find no clean words 
or no words 
or nothing but your screaming. 

You have set a trap for me 
with your lips 
and I have fallen all the way 
deeply 
in. 

4: Interlude
The rest of my dreams 
will still taste like you. 
It will be like that 
for quite some time, 
in fact. 
One can very easily 
get addicted to something 
that bites as sharp and 
grins as ensnaring 
as you do. 
I want nothing less. Trap me again. 
Catch me every 
time you need a toy, 
hunt me down and 
please enjoy. 
I wonder if we’re both wrong - 
if, while you were chasing me, 
I was really hunting you 
the whole time?

5. Climax
Words cannot be stronger 
than whatever light you can feel 
swelling up from between you 
and up to your lips 
and up to your eyes 
and up to your hair 
and higher, 
higher, 
you can feel a little star of greatness 
collapse inside you. 
The song you sing 
when your joy has come 
is something I want to bottle 
and sip from time to time 
if you never come back. 

6. Afterglow
Behind my eyes 
is a soft garden 
where this scene 
replays on a wine-coloured wall 
for me to always see. 
You are the perfume 
of my dreams already, 
and I have not yet 
even drunk of you. 
If only I could catch you. 
The things, o, all the things 
that you would have yet to see 
at that moment 
when I could catch you 
by the lips and tell you 
that you would make a brilliant 
singer, and I can find 
each high note for you.