“Relative Matter” by Sara Schraufnagel

We rarely sit with ourselves,
and see the struggle within us all 

Stop letting the concrete jungle
tuck you in at night
lower one leg at a time and remember that
pain is also your connection to the living

His shirt blew behind him
a flag in the wind, his desired last stand
His hands spread inches from the rain
and the window washer’s rope
that hangs above the 24th floor
He told me love was much more 
than a chemical within us all 
with a fancy name

Poems by Chloe Castay

I Had Not Lived

Amass the firm timber and sow the foundation
for the hovel compiled to bliss.
Four plain sides
and a hearth of ashlar,
to sustain the old hare when
the wren has flown away.

Walden Pond,
sophic eye of cold cobalt blue
bean-fields bestow their breath
until they are freed by
crystalline icicles exquisite.

Winter’s bite congeals
what the equinox restores.
The hermit seeks the philosopher’s call,
but it is wild and withdrawn.

I had not lived
until I found my soul,
a soul in the woods
forged profoundly and brave.

Transcendence the gift,
from Nature, the Host.

 

the monarchy of dusk

here the cult of ignorance reigns cardinal;
dressed in self-righteous garb
while faithful sip cyanide,
from the desert breast of civilization
and sing softly to the hegemon of dread

opinion amounts to insight, while the
egghead is martyred,
now the assaulted youth
see with only scorched and barren,
glassy eyes.

they worship their bodies,
because they have infected their minds.
parched them of truth,
and converted to pudgy fog.
now they cherish torches,
that burn the diseased womb of acumen.

oh, the squall is opulent,
raining acid on your tongue;
while minerva’s owl is shot down,
from the lurid sky
in the monarchy of dusk.

Poems by Ella Nowicki

Last Days

They were loose limbs in cherry trees
curved and darting
into throats of stucco fur.

Their hair grew damp
of sweat in judgement –
the sleepiest acolyte had
diverted in dust, covering
his own pieta in sticky straw
that crispened under
divine and budding nails.

Lot turned to Orpheus and drank salt.

 

Miracle of the Slave Ganymede

                      he glanced to the coarsest fur
          that finger-picked europa with bald berries
and chafed ferns up

                      her tintoretto spine. the water bead
          didn’t help, she said. she still collected
pulsars and swarthy constellations

                      in a blue that wasn’t night. but she had
          ships with lucretian strokes, and he was only
plump with angels. his feathers were crowns

                      of oiled hair and they were carved
          in brown thorns. there was no traced divinity in
the origin of mosaic-dirtied streets, so what

                      stars, red drape-throned girl, can
          he inventory from the same skull dusted
rugs that threaten to stamp them out?

Poems by Laura Ingram

Rate of Decay

We will measure the oil slick skyline in miles per hour, asking ourselves how often the Eiffel Tower is lonely.

Crumbling bits of long-boned light between our fingers,

Together, we are

the euthanasia of elegance.

Half past fifteen and I drive like an arrhythmia,

The universe has been promised to my palms.

it should have been you,

it should have been you

a secondhand hurricane halved,

but maybe my skin is always overcast.

You are a constellation’s carcass

flaying open a second subconscious.

There is a certain rhythm to misremembering,

the syncopation of my pulse

should have thrown you off

after your study of theory

but you stayed well past

the dissonance of dawn.

You always come back to me clutching at the colors of our cleaving.

You are an estuary, coalesced

Gracelessly slung,

embalmed by the opacity of your own hands

yet you listen and understand and agree that grass is the incessant stole of decay,

that someone has indeed replaced our vertebrae with tusks of summer,

and ten years from now we’ll still be cerebral as stars,

the supernovae imploding in the space between our skulls

still light years away

from being undetectable

to the aided optic nerve.

Structural Destabilization

She is cold wash Americana,
closed on Sundays.
Her magazine babies
give her itching eyes and
aching bones,
a public service announcement
against allergy to self.

Her heart is a blood orange, pungent,
imported.
She watches the red scare swarm the places
where her spine protrudes.
Her cerebral cortex shimmers with Cloudshine,
she wonders if the Grace Period is applicable to the amygdale.

Her night terrors are the color of Cuba,
silver minnows meander through her veins,
small swamps,
brackish as being.
Her blood has been replaced with kerosene.
Duck and Cover, Duck and Cover
and you’ll be just fine..
She teaches other women’s children how to add and multiply
when they trip over their shoelaces on the way out the door
she breaks into her hands and cries at their divide.
Duck and Cover, Duck and Cover,
And you’ll be alright.

Diaspora

Your heart is a driedel

pivoting towards that relative you cringe to kiss.

Your uncles never taught you to pull coins out of ears;

Your older cousins won’t let you win.

You squirm through the same game every year;

in your father’s house,

no one is allowed to try the top twice.

My nightmares have a five-point penumbra

and you send me jaundiced stars in the mail,

scribble notes on the back in black crayon.

Most say

Get well soon.

Your mother named you with apron strings and patent leather in mind

but you always knew God was a foreign national.

In the haze of spindly legs and soft tympana

You mistake me for the eighth plague

press your knuckles into your eyes.

Once removed doesn’t make for an HLA match.

You amend the articles of ache

scrawled across the cardboard back of your composition book.

You shoot blanks on foggy Sundays with your father,

turn all the steak knives face down in the drawer when you are done–

close your eyes just in case.

Poems by Jane Juran

Moravian Star Class

Seventy-two sharp-pointed
stained glass triangles.
One errant tip tore into my left knuckle.
It bled like hell, swelled.

I never went back to class
held onto the pieces for years
until U-haul boxes filled my X-terra.

My diamond ring would never fit back on
over the scar tissue.

Terminal

The time until you die
grips the top of my hand

grates my fingers against
puckered metal

collects skin and bone
shavings

into a soft pile
on the good China.

From “Correspondences,” by John Lowther

Note from the author. 

My particular “horse’s mouth” is not available today, but I’ll have a definitive answer for you in a day or so.
I don’t think that will happen.
She left something on her computer that her mom found so they know everything now.
Did you hear the piece differently once it got to the level of pronunciation?
It’s awkward. Never me now. Got more to tell you.
Got a nice little note back saying my stuff was “obscure.”
To what extent do you believe that philosophical reading shapes your work?
I might be able to establish my intentions in the year between then and now.
Backwards, perhaps, but that’s how this one is going.
It simply sits here like a fat noun.
Not that things’re bad here, but my door is not being beaten down.
They don’t approve but they won’t stop us either.
They don’t bullshit.
It saves time.

§

Ask him, politely, what the fuck is going on.
Weird days without any stability.
I haven’t written a word since April.
Is this something you have actually constructed?
Your point, as I take it, is that intentions are not static and to try and pinpoint one at any given moment would radically misconceive its nature.
Piano lessons. But I think I stand with what I’ve said.
Will meditate on a more exact analogy.
I have felt comfortable with my occasional solipsisms there.
Got the goods.
But of course there’s subjectivity to deal with.
Being French seems to help, German ain’t bad, even American, but Italians are off the map most of the time.
Sorry. Things have been crazy, but not too crazy.

§

Bailed out of town for a few days but am back, sun burnt etc.
The tabla player sounded like trickling water.
It’s a mystery to me. Other messages are getting through without a problem.
Lisbon calls.
I’m planning to become incredible, and this could be my ticket.
My eyes see the wind blown edges of posters on the wall.
Corporate sell-out.
Do you find the meter and rhyme keep it away from the realm of experimentalism?
So let me know. It’s a big word but I sort of like it.
This way we can accommodate those who want to keep the ball rolling and those who don’t.
That other crap sounded pretty bad, I was sorry to hear it, nonsense.
The Blair Witch Project sounds fun, but even more fun if it were the Blair Warner Project (a la Facts of Life).

§

I just erased an attempt (ugh) at eloquence in reply, try to imagine a really good one for me to undersign.
When the van rolled over (she fell asleep at the wheel), the side door flew open and he was thrown.
Nothing too major I hope, but then surgery is always a bit major.
I’ll let you know how they sit when they’ve sunk in some and begun either fermenting or festering.
Creative all the way to another planet.
And they are also the only ones I ever think of with any regret.
So for me the distinction, I now realize, is purely a socio-cultural one.
I’m computer literate the same way Zsa Zsa Gabor is/was English literate, so maybe I don’t deserve to know how to use this fancy tool.
Hopefully this is something you will consider.

§

All for now, lunch calls to me.
You know so much from these seven words.
This is always the conundrum of fostering the subversive.
I have in the past considered whether language experiments, i.e. attempts to alter, in whatever way, the signifying system, might worm their way, a micrometer at a time, into the fields of domination and subjectivity—but in truth I don’t think so.
The repair may be a fuel pump; I don’t know yet.
My magnum opus for the end of the millennium I guess you’d call it.
I am just so pissed, creep, that you publicly unveiled my inadequacy by writing what I couldn’t say, though I tried.
The countdown has begun. How do you spell “relief”? The pitch is the same.
I heard it in Mom’s voice, she knew even back then.
But a stick, of course, can be a symbol.
My skull full of molecules is enough.
I enjoy this, however gibberish it may seem.
Wish you could hear them.

Poems by Jim Davis

Enso in Bleach

Plans to bleach a black t-shirt in circles
like the rain that fell in the Kitami
Mountains, or tremors in Taishan before
the quake – to be worn on an occasion
unimagined. New York before the thing

we went through as much as anyone who
wasn’t there did. When there is nothing, time
is a river, if a river is a
t-shirt with imperfect circles of bleach.
Longing’s the showerproof radio we
broke in Devil’s Lake, and when your brother
peeked in through the window on us, you said

it’s okay – you’d never been so happy.
Sunset in a Monetery Bowrider
fell. I made the t-shirt myself last week.
I wear it and it itches. I wear it and it hurts.
There are 8 words for infinity in Japanese.

Turquoise Purging

is as much a savior. Golden cone of thread
for cobbler’s loafers, backstitched & flimsy.
There are too few statues to the genius
of lemon icing on blueberry scone. Bread
baking. Antique stirrups on the breadmaker’s
shelf. I am sitting in a guild of humor, gilded
treaty, making semi neurotic marks
on the acquiescent page. Chicago ain’t
nothin’ but a blues band. Get rid of what
you want to miss. Pretty girl, I’m afraid
to call her name. Horns blew like ships.
Bucket of nails in the cobbler’s closet. I am
an occasion. The breadmaker stockpiles
butter & yeast. I am an excess.

Women weak & weary with weeping. Perfume
sick with other perfume. Wrecked from lack
of sleep, drinking whisky with intent. Trees
bend their gazes, hedgerows kneel, in such
company, amid the advancement of ceremony
shared in the kingdom of animal attempts at sense.
We sit; we stand as directed, sit again
& sing or move our penitent mouths in the shape
of song or chewing cud.
I am as much a savior. A little prayer
would be nice. Are the scones ready? There are bits
which beg to be left out. I’d like a fresh glass
of milk to dribble in my coffee, & a sapphire stir.
Eternity, please, get out of the oven’s mouth.

RB Kitaj and the Oak Tree (1991)

I understand the filthiest tongues
are forked & covered with sulfur, cat
fur, tobacco ashes. Yellow building,
you are perfect when red / you are
figuration bellowed by the sum
of gravities weighing down Mary
Ann’s jowl / Marynka’s ringlet of hair
& the Assyrian books of bedlam I put
on my side table each night after
reading in bed. Chimney smoke, I put
pellets in a sparrow in an oak tree on a farm
outside Pewaukee, square in her choral beak.
She was the first I put to sleep. The next one
bled more. I am a homemade weapon.

October Night

On the whinstone roof of a lifeguard
shack, lying on my back, blue night fog
above. Muted eve & what would be
a Boeing jet, blinking in a halo above
the union of water & sky. Kids shriek
with laughter. Then nothing. No stars.
No moon. Only the tide’s gentle
collision, which rocks me to sleep. I wake
to fog & bells of a pitching buoy.
Dreaming of a younger me. Feral dog
barks at a hidden constellation, patterns
I barely remember, pulled by futures
I might only assume. Black-blue night
above an empty shack. No stars. No moon.

Sunday Morning Nori

Dear recently passed moment,
were you as hungover as this one
was, only moments ago? I suppose you were
something like a ripple’s relation to a pebble
in the fountain of current and future options,
which include drowning in the purple blanket
of an unfamiliar bedroom or turning over
the penny in your dreams to its lucky side:
heads up. Sprite and Smirnoff pulled
from its hiding place in the basement
ceiling. Dear moments of reticent past,
did she leave without your number? You are no one
until you learn to use chopsticks.
Ginger can’t silence the drum-skill. Marry and
you’ll trick your stomach into believing
it’s an old photograph of a glass bottle
of milk on the doorstep, snow falling,
one edge folded over
like the napkin in your lap, spotted with wasabi.
Moments pass, dear, ready or hung
over the table, which is spinning slightly,
like tissue paper lamps, like small, rosy planets.

Poems by Mary-Grace Rusnak

Note: A bio for Mary-Grace can be found here.

Red Stripes

Red stripes of peppermint creep stealthily up a candy cane only to hang their heads in shame because they know full well they’ll rot your teeth. Red racing stripes spin out across sugar cookies baked every year for mariners who can’t make it home for Christmas. Red stripes laugh on an awning as we sip coffee and eat beignets at a sidewalk cafe in Orange Beach. It was the last time I saw you. Red stripes pretend to be cherries hiding inside foil wrappers pulled from packs of Fruit Stripe gum, chewed in secret then stuck to the bottom of my school desk. Red stripes blaze on a freshly slapped cheek that matches the shirt I wore when he thought he might take it off. Sweat on a bottle of Red Stripe Beer with a plate full of crabs caught by the seawall in Port Arthur in August, mercilessly boiled in a garbage can. My blistering sunburn had a one-night stand in the arms of an ice-cold beer. Red stripes shimmer on a swimsuit I made in tenth grade before white stripes sliced through bare red shoulders in my shimmering blue prom dress. Red pinstripes on a tiny oxford shirt the day he posed on a photographer’s pony, a week after his baby brother died. Red stripes mark the days I’ve lived since the day you left. Red stripes grace a flag folded in on itself, buried inside a tight triangle to the somber sound of tears and taps.

Last Dance 

In heels. My cheek rested on a broad shoulder
from the right side of our rusty railroad tracks.
His lyrical Southern name is older
than our small Southern town. Knowing the facts,
I still fell. Great love became gossip fodder.
He left for LSU; I was stuck back home,
languishing while he waltzed up the social ladder.
Bright lights brewed lust on the fast-track.
Society and family approved of her, not me.
Moonlight rolled its eyes over the haystacks
as she and he danced toward their date with the altar.
A month passed as they unwrapped gifts,
arranged new towels and knickknacks.
Then my phone shook off its dust.
From across town, his Southern drawl
seared my head and heart.
I married the wrong girl, he said.

My Sister-Friend

For Jan

Before man named time,

you were with me.

You are the spiral

of warm air that gently

propels my fragile wings skyward,

the rock on which I rest

when I’m too weary

to stir, the radiant soul

that never fails

to renew my faith.

In the darkest hours

of desperately dismal days,

you make me laugh until I cry.

Trusted to your gentleness,

my heart shines

like a freshly waxed

Chevy, cruising

the beach road

with the T-tops off,

the wind in our hair,

until time

no longer has a name.

 Uncle Charles Returns to Nature

He built his cabin
from pines on his land:
felled them, stripped them,
notched them, stacked them.
Now, cinnamon bears stop by
for coffee with cream.

Lost in the Pages of a Book

Ann escapes into her novel.
Kids bang on the cover,
ask what’s for dinner.
Bound and gagged
in a gothic romance,
mom’s imprisoned in Chapter 13.

Not So ‘Tweet Story

Cyber-stalker has her address,
kids’ school, dog’s name,
what she cooks for lunch.
Watchful and wired,
he hangs on her every post.

Words Make Snow

 Feathers swirl outside my window,
Light on reams of random prattle.
With a whirring crunch, words make snow.

Crisp vellum with pencil yellow
Meet in stifled churning feeling.
Feathers swirl outside my window.

Petrified past he can’t let go
Cruel speech slashes sweet memory.
With a whirring crunch, words make snow.

Icy prose a pointed arrow,
bounces off this frozen facade.
Feathers swirl outside my window.

Expectations grim and narrow
Color the future bleak and blue.
With a whirring crunch, words make snow.

Thoughts profound no longer flow.
Coffee stains these dark wee hours.
Feathers swirl outside my window.
With a whirring crunch, words make snow.

Poems by Morgan Hensley

Note from the author can be found here

Cornus florida: Flowering Dogwood

The Yearling

Beagles bayed as they trotted out from dogwood grove
into frostslated meadow, glowing with dawn.
The hunt master followed in a red flash
on a retired race mare, Flowering Judas,
and looked out onto the briared valleys
surrounding a pound sheeted with sparse ice.

The hounds began to swirl and howl
at each other, confused by something unseen.
A stillness came over the pack before Pilot
broke off towards the swaying cattails
where a dappled yearling limped on three legs.

The pack chased Pilot and leapt on the fawn,
tore at its spots, bit its weak leg, pulled it down to them.
It hissed a breath through holes in its throat
while the pack picked at its hide until a blast
from a ratshot loaded revolver clapped through the valley.
The flaying hounds returned to the wood’s brim
where they caught the scent again and cantered off away from the pond.

The following morning the frost around the remains
was redtinged like a spilled sacrament.
Later that day the first snowfall buried the yearling
in winter until thawing March when what was left
spilled downhill into the pond, everything
except hooves, ribs, and a small skull with its jaw agape
beneath indifferent cattails.

The Flue 

Ancient hands, calloused and wrinkled like an old map,
pinch and pull paper into a plume,
and with a scratch and a spark, they light the edges
that flicker orange with air and burn
inward as white becomes black dust that falls
onto a nest of green kindling and splintered
stumps, hollowed by ant tunnels,
and stacked between burnt cherub andirons,
creating a wind that echoes against itself
along the sootglazed tunnel as the draft
tears apart the paper from which it came
and raises the pieces into the flurried sky
where they swirl in a vast darkness
that carries them off towards the dogwood grove.

Cicada Summer

The mulberry tree swarmed in breezeless June
as unearthed cicadas hummed through its vines.

I placed the sprinkler by the creek where grass was not as brown and stiff,
sharp against my small feet, and stood naked with my arms
held out like a crooked scarecrow, and closed my eyes,
pretending the fans of water were raindrops.

After bathing in the shallow creek I walked through boxwoods
to the dogwood grove where I pinched brown
redeyed shells off of wiltleafed trees.
Some I crushed with my thumb,
others I put in a jar with dirt and droughted grass,
like a burial, or rather a diorama of their lives.

One night, after picking shells, I stared through the window
in my playroom and saw the mulberry tree,
dry and lifeless.
So I knelt on the wine-red tiles, wove my fingers together,
closed my eyes like I had seen others do,
and tried to pray for rain, screaming please rain in my head
until my hands slipped apart and I began to cry,
tears leaving a trail down my cheeks.

 Sherman on the Shore
Flotsam rinsed mud from his stirrups.
The general turned to see
ruined Savannah smothered
under a pall of black smoke—
uprooted traintracks were necktied
around waxleafed magnolia trunks
that fenced in burning longseed cotton fields
where negroes gasped an elegy for John Brown
like a chorus of coughing shadows
as scattered salt and ash scalded the plowed earth
beneath choking farmers
who dropped their pitchforks and kneeled—
He held his breath,
grasped his sword,
bowed his head.
Sirens and fire bells tolled within him
as he sighed a closedeyed amen.

The river flowed off towards an island
where a dogwood sapling grew and
breathed in sunlight and coalsmoke
while the white sand was torn away
from its roots by the dark current.

Butterfly in Lexington

My memories begin in Lexington, Virginia where I am told my family used to own a house. I stood at the window. A warm spring shower clouded the glass and left trails and small beads that bent the green and gray world until it fit inside them. In between panes, a blackwinged thing flew around. My fingers traced its wings, larger than my small palms, that didn’t seem to move. The old glass between us was rippled, unsettled. When it dipped down the convex pane stretched and tore its wing to pieces before it rose again, mended.

When I try to rebuild the room around me, I picture a mantle and fireplace that may not have been there. I know that the wallpaper I put up, ivory with gilded wreaths intertwined, is borrowed from somewhere else to fill in spaces. All existence was brought down to a flat plane with a window at its center. That scene became an instant, full and circular, and without my knowing I trapped the butterfly in the window forever. I have tried to build a rainless garden for it to fly off to, a cast iron bench beneath a shady dogwood for it to land on. One day the glass may break or open a hole for it, but I will be gone by then and so will it.

Poems by Julian Ignacio-Canlas

Bio of the author can be found here.

An Expression of feminism

On the cover, the movie is known for its stark social commentary
and award-winning makeup. Before it starts, I sprinkle my popcorn
with salt and butter, and turn off the lights with sullied fingers;
veiling the streetlamp-lit night, with a sullied mouth the female
protagonist blurts out:

I am not a coat hanger.

A menacing figure facing the camera, full-bodied, from head to
knees. She goes against the sunlight, but even in the dark, you
can see her frown and the mass of lines of loose skin beautifully
etched out as if her face was fashioned out to imitate an erudite’s
wisdom, her cerulean stare stark like the taste of salt.

You will love this movie, they told me during an Easter dinner,
each one at different instances: first by the one who always
arrives impeccably early to a fault, while I put the lamb into
the oven, with plastic gloves, an apron, and a tight bun revealing
veiny temples only my closest can see. Secondly by the friend
keen to learn the secrets of creating the perfect sauce, but fails
to remember the mixture of flour and fat, that the gravy should be
stirred under high heat. The last one came when I was slicing the
meat into thinner strips, her suggestion met with approving nods
from the other two–sharp as knives–seemingly supportive of my
choice, as if the movie could carve a new mind-frame, as my body
transitions from man to woman.

To them, I used to be gay, with my gutsy stare and my guttural voice.

I watch like creating a new reality; like a man, she breastfeeds her
child, as a form of liberation. All humans are born female, and I
imagine a man lactating, exposing his breasts like all men do in public;
he breastfeeds his child while sitting on a mall bench next to a lingerie
store with a scantily-clad model slender as a straw, with one sexy
stare going on forever. And I see the guard coming as a silhouette—
a man or a woman?

Not bossy, but assertive, with a focus that sends shivers down the
spine, a friend told me, or is he a colleague, or a fellow reviewer–I
forget. An expression of feminism that defies gender—gender-
defying—gravity-defying… a loose fruit that could either fall down
or stay tight—to be or not to be–to be born or not yet–yet to be.
To be a man or a woman–gender-defying.

An expression of feminism. I snap back into reality at the sound of
a scream—contextless, since I’ve lost track of the movie. A sexy frown
of award-winning makeup. Strength defined through appearance.
Compared to her, my face is smooth, no crevices and a seeming ounce
of remaining baby fat. I may be contextless–neither a man nor a woman.
I drink the pronoun to wash away the taste of salt and butter and wash
my hands, bony and male, to keep my expression of strength.
  

On the metaphysics of destiny

 Colouring the sky into a sea of red
is a metaphysical exercise that I
indulge myself into, when the die
rolls into a one, instead of a six I
can cut in half like a pear to reveal
a perfect core inside, pure as a
sunlit room veiled under a green
curtain so tacky it makes my grand-
mother’s dress look like a Picasso painting–
a piece of art like time. Across art,
I can see the reflection of the windows
and the sky through the portrait’s glass
cover. Metaphysics doesn’t indulge itself
in time, for it considers time the same way
it considers the space of an upturned
sky, where an abundance of bald
dandelions plucked by the northern
wind rains pollens to the bosomy earth.
You see the thread of fate as if it enlaces
you like the silk of a meaning, a word
with one linguistic notion lingering forever
in everyone’s tongue. To teach is to
taught but to preach is not to praught.
When I preached the importance of
destiny, I preached it in an empty church–
a metaphysical purgatory unbound by
time and space–or is it time and space
itself? I marry my footsteps before the
wind and water take them–the memories of
my past life–or a different reality. When
I have a child I will give him , or her, my
hand-me-downs as brand new artifacts–
brand-new to me, so that my thread
won’t tie with his. He
will marry his own footsteps,
not the earth on which he grew, nor
the upturned sky that commenced
the metaphysical exercise of painting.
Old to a fault, when time has failed to
pursue my favourite past-times, I will
see the moon as a dot of one in the die,
like a pearl, its surface the same as the white
core reflecting stars vanishing into time and space.

Tristan and his mum’s voyage to the great elsewhere

 Tristan and his mum’s voyage to the great elsewhere Mum and I left Dad’s house on fire
when I was nine, in a night barefoot procession of cicada hymns.
 

Tristan’s internal crisis

Your love will never be enough, unsatisfying like a poor
wife’s wedding ring. Even mosquitoes prefer to suck on
corpses at night to die like shanty kids. When you try to
undo your dead father’s sins, you will end up repeating
them. The alcohol never dries out, trickling with blood
and sweat into your skin.

Wings clink like uprooted burning homes, and you dream
to fly in different languages. Your eyeballs burn from trying
and failing, and the water inside the kettle boils past its
burning point; their perfumes tickle your ears. Words
uncoil like skin sheds, spilling out of your mouth:

C’est quoi ta raison d’être?

A bed of molluscs

Tonight, a high tide—even the thin strip of shingles
where bits of grass grew was moved by the waves.
The sea even looked more majestic than usual—
different as if seeing the ragged landscape of blue as
a new being, coated from mud and the slick breath of
the Atlantic, which knocked boats against each other
and slipped its fingers into Tristan’s shirt—welcoming its
cold touch keeping him awake, when shucking scabs did
nothing but imitate an expression of pain weaker than
the burn of drinking salt. As he walked, the waves
slithered across his bare feet and retraced his footsteps—
the moon painting a silhouette of his experience:
the coat of salt on his skin after a spray, the crashing
of water against the rocks like a chant, a form of prayer
in the ritual of transformation:
here Tristan lies on mossy rocks, hidden by the elevations—
his frame—peeled naked—welcomes the ocean, with one
arm dangling in the water, like a curved path from fins
to feet. The reflection of the moon spackles over the
indigo of his eyes with the colour of devotion, and it
fades to purple. The craggy surface prickles his back,
cracking old and new wounds open until a streak of
vermilion comes out. But his skin glistens, as if newly-
formed. To bear the bite of salt, he forms muffled cries,
revealing the white coral quality of his teeth. Tristan lets
out an airy gasp, as the water rises to his temples, his
hair like seaweed. When he ceases to cry and pant at
the sounds of the ocean, he becomes a bed of molluscs
covered in shells, until the crack of dawn.