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.