The Letter Your Mother Couldn’t Write

dear daughter,
if you’ve inherited my heart
then don’t be ashamed
of how desperate you sometimes feel
or how you stain sheets and shirts
that you are sopping wet
a walking haemmorhage
curious hands in the shower
the first menses of a young girl
a virgin writhing on a bed
you are on fire
you are like your mother.

so how could i ever talk about sin or damnation
when you have legs like creaking doors?
you welcome ghosts home
so i know you will know hell intimately
men who like to punch women in the face
who tongue kiss girls who look like their mother
men who hold you down, face in the mattress.

daughter with a soft body
the hardest ones will fall for you
and you will usher them in
seek out their sharp edges
the abrasion
and by the time they’ve finished
you will be bloody and sore
teeth marks on your thighs
your torso a burnt house of worship.

habibti, you do not deserve it but
you will be loved in fragments and fractions
until you no longer look like yourself
until your mouth is just the shape of his quiet name
oh my little girl
rip him out of your body
you come from a long line of women;
hawa who doused herself in petrol
ayan who pulled out her own teeth
khadija who fell asleep in the river
forgetting is the hardest thing in the world,
remember that.

– Warsan Shire




Poem of Jealousy

Thy fatal shafts unerring move,
I bow before thine altar, Love.
I feel thy soft resistless flame
Glide swift through all my vital frame.

For while I gaze my bosom glows,
My blood in tides impetuous flows,
Hope, fear, and joy alternate roll,
And floods of transports whelm my soul.

My faltering tongue attempts in vain
In soothing murmurs to complain;
Thy tongue some secret magic ties,
Thy murmurs sink in broken sighs.

Condemned to nurse eternal care,
And ever drop the silent tear,
Unheard I mourn, unknown I sigh,
Unfriended live, unpitied die.

— Sappho

Privilege of Being

Many are making love. Up above, the angels
in the unshaken ether and crystal
of human longing
are braiding one another’s hair, which is
strawberry blond
and the texture of cold rivers. They glance
down from time to time at the awkward ecstasy–
it must look to them like featherless birds
splashing in the spring puddle of a bed–
and then one woman, she is about to come,
peels back the man’s shut eyelids and says,
look at me, and he does. Or is it the man
tugging the curtain rope in that dark theater?
Anyway, they do, they look at each other;
two beings with evolved eyes, rapacious,
startled, connected at the belly
in an unbelievably sweet
lubricious glue, stare at each other,
and the angels are desolate. They hate it. They
shudder pathetically
like lithographs of Victorian beggars
with perfect features and alabaster
skin hawking rags
in the lewd alleys of the novel.
All of creation is offended by this distress.
It is like the keening sound
the moon makes sometimes,
rising. The lovers especially cannot bear it,
it fills them with unspeakable sadness, so that
they close their eyes again and hold
each other, each
feeling the mortal singularity of the body
they have enchanted out of death
for an hour or so,
and one day, running at sunset, the woman
says to the man,
I woke up feeling so sad this morning
because I realized
that you could not, as much as I love you,
dear heart, cure my loneliness,
wherewith she touched his cheek to reassure him
that she did not mean to hurt him with this truth.
And the man is not hurt exactly,
he understands that life has limits, that people
die young, fail at love,
fail of their ambitions. He runs beside
her, he thinks
of the sadness they have gasped and crooned
their way out of
coming, clutching each other with old, invented
forms of grace and clumsy gratitude, ready
to be alone again, or dissatisfied, or merely
companionable like the couples
on the summer beach
reading magazine articles about intimacy
between the sexes
to themselves, and to each other,
and to the immense, illiterate, consoling angels.

– Robert Hass


Tell me about the dream where we pull the bodies out of the lake
and dress them in warm clothes again.
How it was late, and no one could sleep, the horses running
until they forget that they are horses.
It’s not like a tree where the roots have to end somewhere,
it’s more like a song on a policeman’s radio,
how we rolled up the carpet so we could dance, and the days
were bright red, and every time we kissed there was another apple
to slice into pieces.
Look at the light through the windowpane. That means it’s noon, that means
we’re inconsolable.
Tell me how all this, and love too, will ruin us.
These, our bodies, possessed by light.
Tell me we’ll never get used to it.

– Richard Siken



Collision Theory

I swear she kissed me first, but I have
no evidence. I know the wine danced

in the glass like a siren, all lean in and slow blink,
I know the magnets in my palms spun until keys
flung themselves toward us from all

directions. conjurers always have to be watching
our hands. spells dove from simple gesture, simple

wishing, glancing touch. I know that I make things
happen. I’m less good at making them stop. the want
always wants more. that the wine danced

is just evidence of magic messing
with the everyday. this happens

most often after dark. after the sun’s been forgotten
long enough for the moon to seem like honest
light. for the cab to seem like a vocabulary lesson

and the long ride to a small room, a test
of how much our tongues can lift before the temperature

shifts. to dove is to rise like a creature
with perfect bones. to drift a hand across a forearm
at a bar is not magic or a promise, but evidence

of how want flints against itself to become visible.
when asked to explain how magnets work

in layman’s terms, the scientist said
I really can’t do a good job, any job
of explaining magnetic force in terms

of something else that you’re more familiar with
because I don’t understand it in terms

of anything else that you’re more familiar with.
why does the word palm dissolve in the mouth?
how to explain what stays on the body

for days, the kissed arm a stain of mouths,
the belly a well of hands, hands, want

and want and unstopping want. to watch
our hands is not to stop them from conjuring
but to know where they’re headed. to know

what they’ve sheltered, all they’ve let go. to dove
is to build something for as long as it’s needed,

then release. this does not stop the wanting.
does not unravel the spell or make the magnet
any less magic. it does make for a more beautiful

morning, though. the sun so much promise,
so lit, it almost hurts to look at it.

– Marty McConnell


gutted. not sure how much more digging i can do today. this is killing me.

Please Move to Vermont and Break My Heart

I am writing a book on how to write a book so I can learn how to properly explain why you look better with the lights on. I listen to a song but it doesn’t mention your name so I stop listening to the song. Your heart is noise pop. White noise is ghosts missing the streamers that fall from your ears while you sing in the car. Vermont is not far if you are already in Vermont. My cat looks at me and then walks away. He is named either after a famous musician or a body of water. There are so many words I refuse to learn how to spell. Still, I spell check your thighs after I bend you over my desk. I spell check the inside of your left ear while you bite yourself on the kitchen table. Prostrate. Today I am writing in grunts, I am playing in fonts. My chest hair is size 44 Comic Sans. My eyebrows are whittled away before I leave the mall. I have sat under the same sun as you for 25 years. Sometimes I have walked under the same sun as you. Once, I played tennis under the same sun as you. Repetition sun. Staccato sun. Wrinkled sun. I tell your skin that covers your clavicle We’ve got at least 53 more years of holding hands on a bench under the same sun. The sequel to this poem is John Cusack holding a boombox over his head under barely any sun. Fact: I want to kiss your nose even when I’m not inside you.

– Gregory Sherl


1. If i could, i would nail these hands to the edges of stars.
I would sacrifice this body to the sky hoping to resurrect that someone’s spiteful enough to not care about you anymore.

2. Staple me to a cross.
Pierce my side with the broken promise & i will bleed all the crippled reasons why you deserve one more chance.

3. Loving you was the last thing i felt really good at.

4. You wanna know how i got these scars.
See i ripped every last piece of you out of my smile.

5. I whispered you Stardust,

6. I spoke you into Sunflowers,

7. I dipped in my hands in Forever,
I touched you Infinity,
Treated you, as if you were the last molecule of oxygen in side of a gas chamber-
I was good to you.

8. You wanna know how i got these scars.
See i swallowed my pride & then it crawled its way out of my mouth,

9. I realized that i was never really your boyfriend,
I was just your fucking height man.

10. I hope your next boyfriend gets small pox, 10. YES. i said small pox! 10. I hate you, 10. But i still miss you, 10. & a part of me still loves you, 10. It gets hard for me to count when i get emotional,
10. I heard that over ninety percent of human interaction is nonverbal so…

10. If i could, i would tie your arms to a daydream & then auction you off to my fondest memories.

– Rudy Francisco