Gear adrift I say—a phrasal anchor in me
& here at the summit no one I know
knows what it means. I stay neat & ask
 
What did I imagine better before work
before that last time breaking
One Tuesday I volunteered & never again
 
The drumbeat softens & I still decline to
admit how cowardly & shipwrecked I feel
so many miles from the equator
 
How fast can I choose differently
a presence I pretend
In the darkest sweater I own I'm almost cold

More by Khadijah Queen

Balance, onslaught

after Clare Rojas
(I have a diamond house
with men. I have pierced
men and diamond shoes.
I have shoed horses and
a tilted head. I have a tilted
cart and a flowered scarf.
I have a gray dress and a
hell of a guitar. I play the
guitar and the jukebox jack-
in-the-box gutted brown 
bear and canoe landscape. I
play the grayest song and a
cat's yarn game.) I sit in the
forest with a cat and a knife.
(I see the quilted mountains
and long knitted birds. I see
the man limping across the
path of chevrons between
the trees. I sit between trees,
hanging hair and red mouth.
I mouth and sit. The buck
stands by the river. I am in
my paper mask, my wood.)

Prague

Yes as thievery, except if saved for
a fantasy in which I in a backless
dress encounter

you on a typical balcony
overlooking Vltava, gripping the latticework,
metal, a barrier to leaping

into an esoteric night, fixed and ornate
enough, like my penchant for the infinite
within the singular, encounter you

as tributary, serpentine, the heat of your fingers
on my spine, my head turning
as you bend to catch the yes

I'd held latent, a mine you trigger with
your tongue, neither of us
mean to stop exploding.

The Rule of Opulence

Bamboo shoots on my grandmother's side path
grow denser every year they’re harvested for nuisance.
Breezes peel blush and white petals from her magnolia,
lacing unruly roots in the spring grass. For nine decades
she has seen every season stretch out of shape, this past
Connecticut winter slow to relinquish cold. As a girl
she herded slow turkeys on her Aunt Nettie’s farm, fifty acres
in a Maryland county that didn’t plumb until midcentury,
plucking chickens and pheasants from pre-dawn
into the late night, scratching dough
for neighbors, relatives stopping by for biscuits, and the view
from my window changes. It's Mother's Day
and I’d always disbelieved permanence—newness a habit,
change an addiction—but the difficulty of staying put
lies not in the discipline of upkeep, as when my uncle
    chainsaws
hurricane-felled birches blocking the down-sloped driveway,
not in the inconvenience of well water
slowing showers and night flushes, not in yellowjackets
colonizing the basement, nuzzling into a hole
so small only a faint buzz announces their invasion
when violin solos on vinyl end, but in the opulence of acres
surrounding a tough house, twice repaired from fires, a kitchen
drawer that hasn’t opened properly in thirty years marked
    Danger,
nothing more permanent than the cracked flagstone
path to the door, the uneven earth shifting invisibly beneath it.

Related Poems

Song Book

Tiny keyboard bearing the massive reverie of the past—
press one button, we’re carried away on a country road,
marching with saints, leaving the Red River Valley...
here is every holiday you hated, every hard time,
each steamy summer wish. You closed your eyes
in the wooden stairwell, leaning your head against the wall,
knowing a bigger world loomed. It’s still out there,
and it’s tucked in this keyboard too,
now we are an organ, now we are an oboe,
now we are young or ancient,
now we are smelling wallpaper in the house
our grandfather sold with every cabinet,
table and doily included,
but we are still adrift, floating,
thrum-full of longing layers of sound.