the leaves below the shredded cup of the Aster’s
face need to be before it changes species
from Showy Aster to Willow to Rush—Aster Radula
being the name of what I thought I was
seeing—fingers first—reading the neck through
touch—a kindness of soft needles—much like the shot I give
myself once a week now—having increased the gauge exponentially
which has the inverse effect on the amount of skin I am
required to surrender in order to wake up in a body I was
told could not live in this world and be loved—
is not a fair synonym for soft—naming you I
have found another way to send my body back
in time to claim how she wants to be
touched—it’s been over three weeks and I still can’t
find the face of the bird that threatens music—silence— 
whatever you want to call it when a well of metal triangles
is rung underwater and poured from the familiar
little mouth of a ghost—
                                                      every morning I want
to know without drama really how many things I will kill
today—a question of attention—an experiment of turning
god into my body—learning to live in the could-
mean of pine-broken light—
                                                    when I hid you,
Melissa, I became every man
who tells a woman she would be more safe
if only she would keep herself inside—a hive
of mercies we were backhanded into—unknowingly
praying we wanted to unlearn how to pray—
                                                                               I am
almost ashamed I could not name it—how little
pleasure I feel when I touch things only
because I am afraid to be touched—

Copyright © 2021 by TC Tolbert. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 1, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.