Portrait, with Negative Space
Running faucet, orange light hollow as a pill bottle,
images submerged in a bath of chemicals, blooming
into black-&-white being. That was the only time
I’ve ever seen you cry. Your small hands coaxed
a woman from mere paper, didn’t wipe tears away—
think it’s safe to say everyone has secrets. Safe.
Little towns sink into the ground as I pass through,
spring back up behind me. What I mean
is no one forgets what they see in the darkroom:
the persistence of negative space, insistent smoke
streaming out your nostrils, disappearing like minnows
into river, curtains still thick with the smell,
the footprint. I looked & I saw: the feet of a giant.
& I saw: the knees of a giant. I saw you crying,
rubbed hard circles into your back, as if I could knead
out the knot that way, banging on your body’s door.
Perforated window. Permeable membrane.
after Ada Limón
Short stack, side of hash browns,
kiss-bitter black coffee, wondering
about hunger, how best to feed it.
Before the welterweight champion.
Before the crowd of empty wrappers.
Before the dog-shaped scrap of fabric.
Before the moon winked like it already knew.
My father still sings behind locked doors
but it has been a long time since I asked why
or wanted to. Before you were born, I was born;
before I was born, my brother. The list goes
like this: it’s easier this way. I wanted
a labyrinth, paths paved with loose change,
I wanted another cigarette but that was
before you broke your hand putting holes
in your bedroom wall. Before the ocean
rushes in, wondering about drowning,
how to undo it. I do not want to love anything
forever, no mammal, no coruscating thing:
a car crash within a bird cage, or the arcade
where there used to be chicken fights.
No, love, I never told anyone
before I told you.