Devonte, think of it this way
              that the                             faces                              of gods                                                  

                                                     are hidden                                        in the bathroom orchids.

Believe you me                       I’ve seen them
  
                                                                     silently whispering through the shampoo smoke

        the aftershave offerings

                                                                                           that waft over our lady of the toilet

above the hydrogenous fissures                       we mistake for mouths
above                     the hand          that trembles

before unscrewing                                        the aspirin host
                                                                                                       above the mouthwash
with its undeniable

periwinkle for cleanliness
the commode gods are staring.

                                                                                               They are contemplating
                                                                                            your next awkward preamble.

They are waiting
to pounce forth from
the moan and sway
of your bowels,
eat away at you like
maggots devouring flesh.

From Devonte Travels the Sorry Route (Omnidawn, 2019). Copyright © 2019 by T. J. Anderson III. Used with the permission of Omnidawn.

Floating above the gynecologist’s hands,
Dolor looks down at me
with her many expressions.

Someone sketched the eyes, the mouths,
someone pinned them up,
arranged the faces

so they softly say, like this? like this?
The doctor says to choose one,
but I’m no fool, I close my eyes

and the speculum is blind and cool,
widened and distracting.
Like the Chikyū vessel drilling

downhole from the ocean floor
into the untouched mantle,
it shows we’re scarred inside

by what years and use and trespass do.
Every day the women open their eyes
and follow me into the streets,

the cities, like a wind murmur begins
a rumor of waves, the faces of earth
saying let this pain be error upon me writ.

From Human Hours. Copyright © 2018 by Catherine Barnett. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Graywolf Press.

We could say that Rembrandt was a greater painter than Kandinsky. We could not say that Rembrandt was three and a half times better than Kandinsky. . . . We could say, "I have more pain than I had yesterday." When we tried to say, "I have nine dols of pain," we found we were talking nonsense.


		   - Leshan and Morgenau

This is the pain you could fit in a tea ball.
This is the pain you could pack in a pipe
 – a plug of pungent shag-cut pain,
a pain to roll between the thumb and the forefinger.
Here: this pain you could pour down the city sewers,
where it would harden, and swell, and crack
those tubes like the flex of a city-wide snake,
and still you would wake and
there would be more for the pouring.
Some pain believes its only true measure is litigation.
For other pain, the glint of the lamp
in a single called-forth tear is enough.
Some pain requires just one mouth, at an ear.
Another pain requires the Transatlantic Cable.
No ruled lines exist by which to gauge its growth
(my pain at three years old. . . at five. . . ) and yet
if we follow the chronolinear path of Rembrandt's face
self-imaged over forty years - a human cell
in the nurturing murk of his signature thick-laid paint – 
we see the look-by-look development,
through early swank and rollick, of a kind of pain
so comfortable it's worn, at the last,
like a favorite robe, that's frayed by now, and intimate
with the frailties of its body, and has
an easy fit that the showiest cloak of office
never could. In 1658, the gaze is equally
into himself, and out to the world-at-large
 – they've reached a balance of apportioned
disappointment – and the meltflesh under the eyes
is the sallow of chicken skin, recorded
with a faithfulness, with really a painterly
tenderness, that lifts this understanding of pain
into something so accommodating, "love" is the word
that seems to apply to these mournfully basso
bloodpan reds and tankard-bottom browns. Today
in the library stacks, the open face of a woman
above this opened book of Rembrandt reproductions
might be something like the moon he looked to,
thinking it shared in his sadness. What's
her pain? her ohm, her acreage, her baker's dozen,
of actual on-your-knees-in-the-abattoir misery?
I don't know. I'm not writing this
pretending that I know. What I can say is that
the chill disc of the stethoscope is known to announce
an increment of pain not inappropriate
to being blurted forth along the city wall
by a corps of regalia' d trumpeters.
Who's to say what a "unit" of pain is?
On a marshy slope beyond the final outpost,
Rembrandt stares at the moon, and stares at the moon,
until the background drumming-in of the ocean
and the other assorted sounds of the Amsterdam night,
and then the Amsterdam dawn, are one
with his forlornness, and the mood fades
into a next day, and a woman here
in Kansas turns to face the sky: she's late
for her appointment. She's due
for another daily injection of nine c.c.'s of undiluted dol.

Copyright © 2007 by Albert Goldbarth. Reprinted from The Kitchen Sink: New and Selected Poems, 1972-2007 with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota.

While crossing the river of shorn paper,
I forget my name. My body,
a please leave. I want a patron saint

that will hush the dog growling
at trimmed hedges it sees in the night.
I want the world to be without language,

but write my thoughts down just in case.
Send help, the dog’s growling
won’t let me sleep. I haven’t slept in days.

I am looking for a patron saint, but none
will let me pray for guidance. There is a buzz
in my right ear that never goes away, no matter

how hard I hit the side of my head
for loose change. Most mornings I wonder
who I can pray to that will make sure I never

have to survive waking again. Most nights
I forget to pray the rosary, though I sleep with it
by the bed. I’ve never owned a TV because

I’ll replay this conversation in my head.
My dead lovers are hungry in the kitchen,
so I fix them food they cannot eat. I make toast

of vellum paper, fry an egg made of crepe.
I only want a patron saint to protect me.
I only want someone else to bleed.

Copyright © 2019 by Natalie Scenters-Zapico. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 5, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

First visit.

I'm here because I want to be left alone
 

Gender Survey:

In order to proceed, I need access to
your body i.e. brain
your life i.e. sex life
your medical history
your stories
 

Second visit.

 
Have I completed a gender survey so I can cope with being a poet
or am I a poet in order to cope with the gender survey
so used to narrating myself
in exchange for fees and care

The glossy floors and the large window
upon arrival I leave
my name and agency at the reception
I want to talk about my complex and people want to describe me as respectable
to line up the words on the table in front of the psychologist
so we can look at them and pretend we’re equal

A gatekeeper may deny access
a sword can burn against the throat
can still be called angel
fear’s throbbing anatomy
the throat artery's defiant disposition 
highlights a sample of beautiful truths

the same obedience as usual

the same hands folded in my lap
 
 

Third visit.
 

Gender Survey:
Describe your social situation

 
Saw a snake in the woods today
winding across the gravel on its stomach 
as if it didn’t hurt
and every obstacle it met on the way

it slid right around

Imagine if my body could help me like that

Fourth visit
 

I cancel
 

I have reconstructed everything
the boy the girl and the autistic one
documented the fatigue and depression

With the diagnosis as a veil a shield I slid through the corridors.
In the middle of puberty, I escaped sexuality 

got out of girl parties and boyhood problems
got out of punishment and ostracism
stopped learning from the group
how women apply makeup to put on a face

The group of girls I tried to belong to
didn’t work out and lost interest
the punishments ricocheted against the mirrors
newly awakened, I cut myself on the shards
without a clear direction or sender

So the girl was kept intact
floated across the school yard, slid through
high school corridors
rape cultures
mostly without a scratch

Women were formed there
I understand now, as protection and strategy
formed groups there
dancing in a circle around activist tote bags
they became women
I did not become a body

The Publisher
 

It needs a more structured wholeness 

 
I want to reside in the hard and permanent
so I construct a suite of poems and a man to live inside
I want to be pinned down securely
to be normalized and become part of the dictionary
assigned a home
to leave

Scenes flow together
public libraries and pride festivals
small town train stations
press photo and description max 50 words
Twenty-five thousand miles of nerves
I choose the reddest one
pull it out through my throat and set it on stage
my life is three minutes long
they say perfect ten
I'm trying to boil
down to my essence
become a concentrate
of my own existence
then it's called politics

 
Tried to throw out my inner baby Jesus with the bath water
but it held firm inside the lines, screaming and screaming
of course I want nothing more than to fish for Christian Democrats

lure with a little hook of poetry
this body is so useful as bait

People came to me to confess
their heteronormative sins, I said
here, eat my body
I am a worm
and you will be fished up
you will be saved
you will be good
but why do I long for heaven
when I like it best in the flower’s moist soil

Originally published in the March 2019 issue of Words Without Borders. Tjugofemtusen kilometer nervtrådar © Nino Mick. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2019 by Christian Gullette. All rights reserved.

You’re the shadow shadow lurking in me
and the lunatic light waiting in that shadow.
 
Ghostwriter of my half-life, intention’s ambush 
I can't prepare for, ruthless whammy 
 
you have me ogling a blinding sun, 
my right eye naked even with both lids closed—
 
glowering sun, unerring navigator 
around this darkened room, you're my laser probe, 
 
I’m your unwilling wavelength, 
I can never transcend your modus operandi,
 
I’ve given up trying to outsmart you,
and the new thinking says I didn’t invent you—
 
whatever you were to me I’ve outgrown,
I don’t need you, but you're tenacity embodied,
 
tightening my skull, my temple, like plastic wrap. 
Many times, I’ve traveled to a dry climate
 
that wouldn’t pander to you, as if the great map
of America’s deserts held the key to a pain-free future, 
 
but you were an encroaching line in the sand, 
then you were the sand.  We’ve spent the best years
 
of my life intertwined: wherever I land 
you entrap me in the unraveled faces
 
of panhandlers, their features my features—
you, little death I won’t stop for, little death 
 
luring me across your footbridge to the other side, 
oblivion’s anodyne. Soon—I can’t know where or when—
 
we’ll dance ache to ache again on my life’s fragments,
one part abandoned, the other abundance—

Copyright © 2011 by Gail Mazur. Used with permission of the author.

The new aspirin is a blue-blooded Burberry model
With an Oxford classics degree, but my migraine
Flares beneath a canopy of melanoma-blurring sun
What pains me is the plain human tangle on the L.I.E.
And feeling the tricyclics fail me beneath the canopy of melanoma-blurring sun
And the long pressed-out El Greco bodies stretched
Liked colorless taffy in the studio and At the Night the States Have Ruined Me.
Steroid weight gleams off my heart like a chubby Aaron Basha jewelry foot
A poem that says “Reinvent the vomitorium!”
And At Night the States have ruined me. I can persuade him
To be alive and living in hotel rooms is dehumanizing.
Inside of this I’m passing out
From bravery, dyspepsia, the Boy with an Arab Strap
In fluttering tremolo, the way an air of tremor lives in some bordeauxs but
Like the Hamptoms rising from the pollutions mist—
Something so Anglo-Saxon refusing to die or bonnet its frailty
In layers of preservatives. Please somebody peel me dreamlessly aback
To inhabit fleshly then brittle climates like a Giacometti fever dream

Copyright © Jeni Olin, 2005. From Blue Collar Holiday. Used with permission of Hanging Loose Press.

          If many remedies are prescribed
          for an illness, you may be certain
          that the illness has no cure.
                              A. P. CHEKHOV
                             The Cherry Orchard

 

1  FROM THE NURSERY

When I was born, you waited 
behind a pile of linen in the nursery, 
and when we were alone, you lay down 
on top of me, pressing
the bile of desolation into every pore.

And from that day on 
everything under the sun and moon 
made me sad—even the yellow 
wooden beads that slid and spun 
along a spindle on my crib.

You taught me to exist without gratitude. 
You ruined my manners toward God:
"We're here simply to wait for death; 
the pleasures of earth are overrated."

I only appeared to belong to my mother, 
to live among blocks and cotton undershirts 
with snaps; among red tin lunch boxes
and report cards in ugly brown slipcases. 
I was already yours—the anti-urge, 
the mutilator of souls.


2  BOTTLES

Elavil, Ludiomil, Doxepin, 
Norpramin, Prozac, Lithium, Xanax, 
Wellbutrin, Parnate, Nardil, Zoloft. 
The coated ones smell sweet or have 
no smell; the powdery ones smell 
like the chemistry lab at school 
that made me hold my breath.



3  SUGGESTION FROM A FRIEND

You wouldn't be so depressed
if you really believed in God.



4  OFTEN

Often I go to bed as soon after dinner 
as seems adult
(I mean I try to wait for dark)
in order to push away 
from the massive pain in sleep's 
frail wicker coracle.



5  ONCE THERE WAS LIGHT

Once, in my early thirties, I saw 
that I was a speck of light in the great 
river of light that undulates through time.

I was floating with the whole 
human family. We were all colors—those 
who are living now, those who have died, 
those who are not yet born. For a few

moments I floated, completely calm, 
and I no longer hated having to exist.

Like a crow who smells hot blood 
you came flying to pull me out 
of the glowing stream.
"I'll hold you up. I never let my dear 
ones drown!" After that, I wept for days.



6  IN AND OUT

The dog searches until he finds me 
upstairs, lies down with a clatter 
of elbows, puts his head on my foot.

Sometimes the sound of his breathing 
saves my life—in and out, in 
and out; a pause, a long sigh. . . . 



7  PARDON

A piece of burned meat 
wears my clothes, speaks 
in my voice, dispatches obligations 
haltingly, or not at all.
It is tired of trying 
to be stouthearted, tired 
beyond measure.

We move on to the monoamine 
oxidase inhibitors. Day and night 
I feel as if I had drunk six cups 
of coffee, but the pain stops
abruptly. With the wonder 
and bitterness of someone pardoned 
for a crime she did not commit 
I come back to marriage and friends, 
to pink fringed hollyhocks; come back 
to my desk, books, and chair.



8  CREDO

Pharmaceutical wonders are at work 
but I believe only in this moment 
of well-being. Unholy ghost, 
you are certain to come again.

Coarse, mean, you'll put your feet 
on the coffee table, lean back, 
and turn me into someone who can't 
take the trouble to speak; someone 
who can't sleep, or who does nothing 
but sleep; can't read, or call 
for an appointment for help.

There is nothing I can do 
against your coming. 
When I awake, I am still with thee.



9  WOOD THRUSH

High on Nardil and June light 
I wake at four, 
waiting greedily for the first
note of the wood thrush. Easeful air 
presses through the screen 
with the wild, complex song 
of the bird, and I am overcome

by ordinary contentment. 
What hurt me so terribly 
all my life until this moment? 
How I love the small, swiftly 
beating heart of the bird 
singing in the great maples; 
its bright, unequivocal eye.

From Constance by Jane Kenyon, published by Graywolf Press. © 1993 by Jane Kenyon. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Where does the future live in your body? 
Touch it 

1.
Sri Lankan radical women never come alone. 
We have a tradition of coming in groups of three or four, minimum.
The Thiranagama sisters are the most famous and beloved,
but in the ’20s my appamma and great-aunties were the Wild Alvis Girls.
Then there’s your sister, your cousin, your great-aunties 
everyone infamous and unknown. 
We come in packs                       we argue 
we sneak each other out of the house                       we have passionate  agreements and disagreements 
we love each other very much but can’t stand to be in the same room or  continent for years. 
We do things like, oh, start the first rape crisis center in Jaffna in a war zone
in someone’s living room with no funding. 
When war forces our hands, 
we all move to Australia or London or Thunder Bay together
or, if the border does not love us, we are what keeps Skype in business.
When one or more of us is murdered 
by the state or a husband 
we survive 
whether we want to or not. 

I am an only child 
I may not have been born into siblinghood 
but I went out and found mine
Made mine. 

We come in packs 
even when we are alone 

Because sometimes the only ancestral sisterlove waiting for you
is people in books, dreams 
aunties you made up 
people waiting for you in the clouds ten years in the future 
and when you get there  
you make your pack 
and you send that love 
back. 

2. 
When the newly disabled come 
they come bearing terror and desperate. Everyone else has left them
to drown on the titanic. They don’t know that there is anyone
but the abled. They come asking for knowledge 
that is common to me as breath, and exotic to them as, well,
being disabled and not hating yourself. 
They ask about steroids and sleep. About asking for help.
About how they will ever possibly convince their friends and family
they are not lazy and useless. 
I am generous—we crips always are. 
They were me. 
They don’t know if they can call themselves that
they would never use that word, but they see me calling myself that,
i.e., disabled, and the lens is blurring, maybe there is another world
they have never seen
where crips limp slowly, laugh, have shitty and good days
recalibrate the world to our bodies instead of sprinting trying to keep up.
Make everyone slow down to keep pace with us. 

Sometimes, when I’m about to email the resource list, 
the interpreter phone numbers, the hot chronic pain tips, the best place to rent a ramp, 
my top five favorite medical cannabis strains, my extra dermal lidocaine  patch
—it’s about to expire, but don’t worry, it’s still good—I want to slip in a
P.S. that says, 
remember back when I was a crip
and you weren’t, how I had a flare and had to cancel our day trip
and when I told you, you looked confused
and all you knew how to say was, Boooooooooo!
as I was lying on the ground trying to breathe?
Do you even remember that? 
Do your friends say that to you now? 
Do you want to come join us, on the other side? 
Is there a free future in this femme of color disabled body?

3. 
When I hear my femme say, When I’m old and am riding a motorcycle with  white hair down my back.
When I hear my femme say, When I’m old and sex work paid off my house  and my retirement.
When I hear my femme/myself say, When I get dementia and I am held with respect when I am between all worlds.
When I see my femme packing it all in, because crip years are like dog years and you never know when they’re going to shoot Old Yeller.
When I hear my femme say, when I quit my teaching gig and never have to  deal with white male academic nonsense again.

When I hear us plan the wheelchair accessible femme of color trailer park,
the land we already have a plan to pay the taxes on 
See the money in the bank and the ways we grip our thighs back to ourselves 

When I hear us dream our futures, 
believe we will make it to one, 
We will make one. 

The future lives in our bodies 
Touch it.

Originally published in Hematopoiesis Press, Issue 2. Copyright © 2017 by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. Used with the permission of the author. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 12, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Isn't it funny
when suddenly after all these decades
you notice a new part of your body.
 

Maybe the hamstrings—
entirely unused when lifting weights,
back used instead
which then pains for years.
 

Maybe the slight shoulder raise
that tightens those muscles
maybe for good.
 

I notice my body
slide through time.
It is odd and peculiar,
genius of no one,
a perfect clock
making clocks
look simple.
 

Newness comes naturally.
Resisting it causes the past
to present memories on yellow
platters.
 

My age is a number.
Bones getting ready to play poker.
I will remain a small book
hidden away deep
in the library.
 

I love my body and this world!
Such a declaration
five years ago
would've driven me insane.
 

But now an appreciation arrives
with a fine taste of sulfur
and anywhere I look is born
a rose.

Copyright © 2019 by Zubair Ahmed. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 20, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

a love letter to traci akemi kato-kiriyama

does a voice have to be auditory to be a voice?

where in the body does hearing take place?

which are the questions that cannot be addressed in language?

which are the questions where promises lodge?

how do we hear what is outside our earshot?

when does distance look like closeness, feel like velvet sunrise cheek to cheek?

what are the objects, ideas, or experiences we drop beneath the more evident surfaces of our lives to the air or water or ground beneath? do we drop them purposefully? are they forgotten?

what word makes the body?

what body defies the word?

which figures, shapes, presences, haunts, methods, media, modes, ephemera, gestures, abandonments, models, anti-models, breaths, harmonics? which soil? which fields?

what does beginning sound like? what body does continuing form? what note does perseverance hum?

is a word a body?

which apertures? which hinges?

where does a body stand without settling?

through which holes does history break into our day?

where in the past does the future excavate?

where in the future does the past propel?

what are the distinctions between proximity and simultaneity?

where does a body resist without refusal?

can borders be exceeded? can borders be disintegrated?

where in the body does hearing take place?

where in the body does loving take place?

how do we make family with someone we do not know?

what do we carry with us and where in the body do we carry it?

might we be permitted a we this evening?

may I hold your hand? to feel your hand as its actual shape, clothed in its papery useful unequivocal skin, bones stacked like tiny branches, the balancing act of a bird, joints unlocking, span from thumb to pinky octaving out toward unfamiliar harmonics?

what space does the body occupy despite everything?

what does despitesound like? what does withsound like?

where does attake place? where does respite take place?

 

Copyright © 2018 by Jen Hofer. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 7, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Science in its tedium reveals
that each spirit we spirit

ganks a solid half hour from
our life spans.

Or so says my doctor, a watery,

Jesus-eyed man, and hard to suffer
with his well-intended scrips for yoga

and neti pots, notably stingy with the better

drugs, in situ here amongst the disinfected
toys dreadful in their plastic baskets.

Above his head, the flayed men of medical
illustration are nailed for something like

décor. The eyeball scheme is best,

with its wondrous Canal of Schlemm,
first favorite of all weirdly named

eponymous body parts. It’s just a splotch
of violet on the diagram, but without which

our aqueous humours would burst
their meshy dams and overflow. Tears,

idle tears…so sad, so fresh the days
that are no more…
is what I quote to him

as he thumps my back with his tiny
doctor’s’ tomahawk. But he’s used to me.

We have an understanding. What he
means to miser, I’ve come to spend

most lavishly. And I feel fortunate again,

to be historically shaky in the maths,
enough to avoid making an easy sum

of my truly happy hours, or nights curled 

sulfurous on my side, a priced-to-sell
shrimp boiling in anxious sleep.

If we’re lucky, it’s always a terrible time

to die. Better the privilege of booze
than the whim of one more shambolic

butcher shelling peasants in a wood,
our world’s long spree of Caesars

starting wars to pay their bills
in any given era’s Rome. Turns out,

Lord Alfred’s stomach did for him,
and he died thirsty, calling for more opium.

Free of the exam room now, I spot the same

tattered goldfish in his smeary bowl
beside the door where he’s glugged along

for years, a mostly failed distraction

for poxed or broken children. I raise my fin
to him, celebrate the poison we’re all

swimming in, remembering the way
you say cheers in Hungarian:

Isten Isten, meaning, in translation,
“I’m a god. You’re a god.”

 

 

Copyright © 2018 by Erin Belieu. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 13, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Silence isn’t stillness, agitation has me in its grip

remember reading       Greeks were like us

restless            underneath and again underneath

water wearing away               crevices          the itch

of canyons             skin I didn’t outgrow as

the doctor promised     burns hot and stinging

allergic to what I bring to it            allergic to

what I’m thinking     how much older 

the underpass is     filled to overflowing

blue-tented absence                corners with the leftover

plastic and cardboard     happens so fast        it isn’t

even my heart that’s              broken, 

time stealing               & leaking the blue cold

what it would have been to be        Greek

no cortisone     a body       historians

also thought women leaky        restless        for  what

out of one’s own        skin      a future they never

knew  who’d have thought        a daily  underpass 

so many leftovers     pizza  fries           near the  parking

what skin did we come wrapped in

Copyright © 2018 by Martha Ronk. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 26, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

It’s not fair. You owe it to the reader.
We’re trying to help. We have an uncle
with a disability and he always says

exactly what it is. Take it from him.
Take it from us. Take it from them.
You can’t expect people to read you

if you don’t come out and say it.
Everyone knows the default mode
of a poem is ten fingers, ten toes

with sight and hearing and balance.
When this is not true, it is incumbent
on you to come out and say it.

Here’s what. We’ll rope you
to the podium and ask
What do you have? What is it?

Copyright © 2018 by Jillian Weise. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 9, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Thing of dirt and water and oxygen marked by thinking
and reacting and a couch
one may or may not be permitted
to sleep on. He may not permit me
to touch him or to take the bone
from his mouth, but he does, and that’s a choice
based on many factors, not the least of which
is his own desire to let me
do these things. How I could ever
think or feel myself more
deserving of a single thing than
this being, whom I call by a name the same way
my parents chose a name for me. The same way my genes
went expressing themselves to make my face exactly
my face. This isn’t special. Or this is special. But it’s one
answer, the same, for us both.

Copyright © 2016 by Holly Amos. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 2, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

your body still your body
your arms still wing
your mouth still a gun
 
          you tragic, misfiring bird
 
you have all you need to be a hero
don’t save the world, save yourself
 
you worship too much & you worship too much
 
when prayer doesn’t work:      dance, fly, fire
 
this is your hardest scene
when you think the whole sad thing might end
 
but you live      oh, you live
 
everyday you wake you raise the dead
 
          everything you do is a miracle
 

From Don’t Call Us Dead (Graywolf Press, 2017) Copyright © 2017 by Danez Smith. Used by permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Graywolf Press, www.graywolfpress.org.

This is like a life. This is lifelike.
I climb inside a mistake
and remake myself in the shape
of a better mistake—
a nice pair of glasses
without any lenses,
shoes that don’t quite fit,
a chest that always hurts.
There is a checklist of things
you need to do to be a person.
I don’t want to be a person
but there isn’t a choice,
so I work my way down and
kiss the feet.
I work my way up and lick
the knee.
I give you my skull
to do with whatever you please.
You grow flowers from my head
and trim them too short.
I paint my nails nice and pretty
and who cares. Who gives a shit.
I’m trying not to give a shit
but it doesn’t fit well on me.
I wear my clothes. I wear my body.
I walk out in the grass and turn red
at the sight of everything.

Copyright © 2015 by Joshua Jennifer Espinoza. Used with the permission of the author.