new york poems

24 October 2018

in new york, i lived
on the same street joan didion did
in ‘goodbye to all that’.
but i did not see yellow silk.

i believe the colour suffocated my host’s frogs,
who he kept only to produce DMT.
they all died one night, and left me alive
to explain new sentinel island.

on elevators, with native strangers,
i dance apologetic boustrophedon.

joan didion ate almonds and edited vogue.
she only ever voted twice.
lucia berlin could love me, but
joan didion is how i imagine god,
a wire mother,
and i don’t think she’d like me much.

no one can truly avoid.
there is no silence,
that is not slightly calico,
that is not slightly aeolian.

in the stadia between your teeth,
or the parasang between you and i,
or the palisades that are our bodies,
the alchemical word could have been ‘empty’,
or ‘tempting’.
craquelure – i cherished that.

we can talk between splinters.
my parent’s marriage like resin,
frozen blood, a seized sting.
make merry war;
shakespeare did it.

every day, the sky is urging me
the turpentine edge of exquisite mania,
and fetid city stars itch at me like ants.
and in the morning – aubade supposedly,
a furious drown of insect blue,
to sting my veins in winter arms.

this is seduction’s opposite.
this is advice on faking orgasms .
these are emperor’s tears.

the advent meaning
is to endure ourselves,
a cathedral weight.

you breathe like you pack suitcases,
and these american clouds
have your unibrow.

despite my best efforts, at stanford i failed to see
a raccoon or a flaccid penis (excluding those by rodin).
well, in new york –

on the compulsive polish of odessa steps,
catullus’ sparrow is catullus’ penis
is catullus’ sparrow. i still believe it.
we’re coy when it matters.

so 2017 was not a bad year,
why not pretend i chose it?

nicholas or pyramus,
i’m so starved of tenderness.
no one could have imagined us.

you did not care for the cannae or carnage
i drew on your high school library book,
but your eyes were so beautifully patient.

the boys are saying ‘nebulous’.
the girls are making janglepop.
four years ago, you carried me across your school oval,
so i’d feel your percussive cough.

by the lush dark oil of the river
with its mandarin scales of firelight,
we turned like koi.
i softened.
you trembled like smoke.

the oranges your mother peeled,
they stung like fireworks. like lion fur.

the parasang is sedimental, not igneous,
and i was wrong to doubt fabius or distance.

no more than drowned apostles,
or burnt moths.
you are simply a colour
i can never touch again.

we can stand close enough to share a shadow.
there’s still rain on the ailanthus.
i could live on what falls,
or your freehand glance.


This poem was also published in this year’s edition of Myriad, the People of Colour department’s annual publication. Myriad is currently available (in 2018) on stands around campus for all students.

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