Essay on Submission

Having ebbed in the disbelief of it instead of its weight.

Stone-tiled the floor the blood a trickling fire confessional.  

Here the ocean metaphor refused.

He tore me shut & seeping no vastness. 

To marvel or hide in.

Being told i don’t exist i laugh with wounded teeth into.       

The folds of his larynx a choir of bees rattle me.

Into myth less the mechanics of.      

Throat than the usage the context neither divorced from combustion.

Of birth more or less i forgave him before. 

He entered because he swelled for me i could never trust. 

Myself in his hands but i did want. 


Knocking leaning into the sliver of light he.

Missed the wastebasket he couldn’t bear. 

The sight of me i never slept.     

With the lights off i don’t know that. 


But i named it so it can’t be.      


Or rather question.

Of distance my skin.
And cold waters my skin and woundless.

Skin i wade in the contradiction. 

After i wanted only to be. 



Distance his hand & the small of my.

Back his hand & the lip.   

Of a waterfall here i reject the landscape.

Its vastness i don’t think.

We’re looking for the same thing you. 

And i you’d think olympus.     

Would dethrone itself of goldenrod leaves i told you it was. 

Blood did i claim it.

Mine i am built of avoidable. 

Violences with one drop apocalypse. 

The burning wilderness you can see yourself.

Out now histories like this cannot. 

Be known let alone escaped even the one.

Where i set fire to my colonizer i can afford neither. 

Reclamation nor reconciliation.


Unfragmented i cannot give you an ending. 
That isn’t body lunar. 

And concave staining instead. 

The bathroom floor. 

Searching for a Palestinian Necropastoral (Eve)

& I found it at the bottom of an american river—& in
the leaves which gathered at its surface’s semblance
of stillness, appearing & not so, as if endless

though counted for, & I found it not in the beams
of light, but how, electric & frantic, they danced beneath 
the water, like a choreography preceding any notion of

body, or unknowable twins returning to the half-self 
they could have never imagined & I found it in that half
-liminal light, divined into fractal’s endless—before split 

& risen, before splay & tempt, before 
womblessness became an american sadness & I found it
in my mother’s breath, her reek of rivers still

enough to pass as reflection & in the smogged 
aftermath of filter & filter &, I found it—there,
yes, there: in the wilderness rotting 

at the center of me—crater of me, tender cesspool 
unaccounted for, unnameable aside from the complacency 
of latex & in the tempt of men I will 

not fable, not legend, or border between. Because I cannot
taint this dark with all the names
they could not give me, the only crown I reach for 

is felled kingdom—this is how I fawn 
the toxic, flora. But is this not the first 
motion, of arriving at a pastoral: to have 

a past to run from? Though the Anthropocene of me
is memoryless as a pathing wind, as prayer’s
barter. Gethsemane of me, I beg of you a fruit

half-bitten & worm writhed—first language, bitter 
prosody of me. This is the only fall my body 
can muster: eclipse of. Lone, knowable 

nightfall. I cannot return to a weightless less american 
than this, the pulled into: body 
                                                    of me. Poisoning eucharist 

of. Take me into the canon’s night & may it be a good, 
good night—& may that night be anything, anything but 
            a mouth—anything                      but a body of—

Unarcheology of ‘Father’

a Markov Sonnet, with thanks to Fargo Tbakhi

Baba, I held your hand as you were dying
Half-asleep, floating between Unknowing
And here: your gazed fixed into the greying wall.


Half-asleep, floating away from an unknowable
Here, your gaze was fixed past the wall greying
from hospital to hospice to bedroom to heaven.


Here, your gaze was fixed. Past the wall, greying
from hospital to hospice to bedroom, the heaven
of your unforgotten youth played out before us.


From hospital to hospice, from bedroom to heaven,
Your unforgettable youth played out before us: 1967,
Summer whispering in the ferns, gator dead on the mantle.


You un-forgot your youth and let it play out before
Summer whispered the ferns dead. A gator on the mantel
Meant hunting season was beginning, its heat coming still.


Summer was a whisper. Ferns, dead on the mantle. A gator
Meant hunting season was a heat you named beginning:
This is how you convinced yourself you were American. 


I wrote heat, and beginning, but meant hunting season.
This is how I know I am american: I can convince
Other men I am worthy of their roughest entries.


This is the shape of my knowing: I’m a convincing american
To other men who see, in me, a rough entry. A worthy
Hole would know when to submit, how to say daddy. 


To other men, I am a rough entry, a worthy
Hole. I know how to submit, call daddy
Undeserving men: all spittle, teeth, and thrashing.


Hole I once submitted to, Daddy where once
Was undeserving man: in all the spittle and thrashing,
He was my first love, my earliest childhood friend.


When I was spittle & thrash, I thought myself undeserving
Of him. Being in love with my earliest childhood friend
Was how my body first taught itself to swallow.


I once was in love with my earliest childhood friend.
This is how my body first learned to swallow
the impossible wound of itself: summer quieted to whisper.


I first taught my body to swallow itself
As a wound scraped quiet on an impossible summer.
Baba, it was you who held my hand as I was dying.


I quieted the impossible wound of my body,
Baba. I held your hand while you were dying,
Half-asleep. I let you float off, Unknowing.

Related Poems

Post-Op Letters in the Field Between Us

and Susannah Nevison


Dear M—
I know there’s no going back,
no clearing to be found,
no curling ring of grass where
an animal, bedded down,
cries out and breaks me open
because she’s calling back
to me, wherever I still wait,
from wherever it is we first
learned the body’s another door
the world slams shut each time
we think to drag ourselves out
of the line of sight, beyond the scope
of whatever hand would yoke us
to each other, would have us
bent and humbled, poor machines,
poor beasts, whose tongues learn
first to cry and then to speak,
who can’t go home, when where
we’re from is already gone, already
burning down, graven inside us
like every ancient tree,
so we always already know
who we belong to, where we
belong, where there’s no going
back, or getting lost or found—
Dear S—
Let’s just say we are rewound: grow
smaller and more animal, come back unstitched,
the hands inside of us recede into their sleeves,
the knives resheathe, the needle punctures weave
together perfect, blank, then absent. Say our tendons
tighten down, our bones go back to bowing, say we curl,
some hoof returns, the bodies that we know revert
to fictions from a place we didn’t go. Say where we are
it’s snowing, and we’re sheltered the way wild, loved things
are when they are new: a nest of winter grass, a little down,
some hollow where the weather strains to reach. Say that
we’ve never been afraid, we’ve never howled, we’ve never
been in pain. There’s still a storm outside, there’s still some
larger thing with teeth, there’s still the day something will
nose us to get up and walk, then run, and when we can’t
will leave without us fearing yet another winter, or a gun.
Dear M—
If we can’t come stumbling
down the path that’s never lit,
if we can’t slip through the wire
fence and if it rends our skin,
our hair, if we bleed, if we claw
the earth, if we don’t call out
and nothing comes running, if we
rest awhile, if we wait and nothing
comes, M, will we stay tangled
in the wire, along the edge
of winter, if something gentle’s
out of reach, will we stay and twist
the wire into shapes we know,
unshod hoof and bowed bone,
if we call them ours, if we make
such wire children and string
them up, if we rust, if our children
are wire stars above us, if they
are always out of reach, if we can’t
twist free, if we bed down inside
ourselves, if our children swing
beyond us, if they don’t resemble us—
Dear S—
If we are hooked there in the fence,
if the ice on our hides names us
a thing for staying, but the children
we’ve contorted finally do twist free
of how we’ve strung them up—both
the shapes we gave them and the ones
we would not pass along—if it turns
out that they are only light blinked
down from a radio tower, or the blood
we’ve loosed in rivulets by chewing
on our own bad legs, or some alluvium
composed of all the lither things that ran
downhill toward water. If we’re left to work
the barbs out of the skin they bloomed in,
work out the difference among flesh,
and steel, and shade that nightfall has
false-miracled to bodies, cold, like nothing
in the river when we reach for them.
Dear M—
Last night I dragged the river
again. I went looking
in the water for the children
I left there, the ones that
catch like leaves and twigs
in the dam or fence, the ones
I set down like little boats
and the ones I set down
like little stones. I’m beginning
to believe they were never
more than shadows, slipping
in and out of the room while
I slept, leaving little notes
for me that disappeared
as soon as I thought to touch
them. You said our eyes
can remake a thing, change
a shape by looking.
I don’t want another thing
to lose its skin or come
undone. It’s enough that
I can’t remember the shapes
of the things I’ve loved
or the things I’ve made
in one body or another,
so I must make them up:
Here is a heart-shaped hoof.
Here is a hoof-shaped heart.





Dear S—
Last night I tried to sleep inside a blank
hotel room, made the bed a boat,
believed the smell of bleach was just
the water filling up with salt, just
gulls sounding outside the window, just
the tide and all the strange things it drags
up and beaches, bone-bright, on the cliffs.
The ocean hunts itself at night for all
that has survived in the wrong place,
that has outlived its usefulness,
come loose, or gotten lost, or fallen
far behind when other colonies have eased
right out to sea. It has a mechanism
for determining belonging, true as gravity
and all the quartz, and lime, and iron that
comprise the moon. I comb the beach
for shapes I recognize and every night
my children don’t wash up I think,
There’s still a chance for them,
and every night I don’t find my own face
ripe for unmaking, I’m surprised.