now she’s gone my teacher wants to know
where the speaker enters the poem
the wind blows open the screen door & it catches
on its chain. outback my neighbors are smoking
a pig to make it last. my teacher only became
my teacher after she passed. before that
she was a woman who had lived a long time.
as always i am an ungrateful child, a student
first of ingratitude. ungracious as a wasp. a knot
in a history of rope your hands don’t notice
as you hold on for dear life. dear life, the speaker
is the chain holding the door closed & the wind
is my teacher, the smoke curing meat,
my teacher had stories about all the dead poets
which made her, while living, prophetic. proximity
is next to godliness. for a woman who had no use
for music or pleasure her writing beats the page
until knuckles singe. my speaker wants to know
when the teacher enters the poem, if she ever leaves,
if she’s always there in the text shaking her heads
cutting the weeds.
Copyright © 2023 by Sam Sax. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 12, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.
And when we are finished, I ask
if she thinks us grotesque,
two plain monsters basking
in our blood—our liquid plaque.
We celebrate the art of
our unmaking. She spirals my body
into a single drop, ambrosia
spoiled by the Gods. I copy
the signature of her sin-
ged moan, grind it down
until it becomes my own dim
map. Even the Gods fuck. Crown
themselves in gardens pastored
by snakes. I am crying. Not out of shame
but out of tradition. To have mastered
this want, only to carve for it a lock, a name
as queer as unholy. How queer it fits
inside the mouth, how queer is my woman
and the sweat she makes of me, a sweet trick
of her tongue. Don’t we deserve a hand-
made altar. Don’t we deserve a crowd
of worshipers to carry our bed. And yes
please to the beads, the sacred
wars, the body ornaments, the vain-eyed
statues pulsing deep with our flood.
Yes to the orchestrated violence, a quiver
licked down my spine. May our love blood
the skies like a storm of Gods high off terror.
O Zeus. O Oshun. O Ra. O Kali. O Me. O Her. O Gods—God?
Yes. Gods. Don’t act like you don’t know our names’ roar.
Whispered. Sweet and savage inside your temples.
Preserved behind velvet doors.
Copyright © 2023 by Crystal Valentine. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 23, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.