no one wants to be rough anymore

you haven’t had a salient thought since seeing the film, which still plays inside you on a loop. a valley splits open revealing mirroring paths. a lake like glass. there’s no need to name it. you are terrified that the men will hurt you and you are terrified they won’t be bothered. Jack is bathing in the river with his back to you because you love watching him turn to face you. the smile he holds out to you is the same one you attempt to bridle. when you are you, some things will align. denim hangs off your body with a certain correctness. those who don’t know you may see you as more adjacent to violence. the slurs that apply to you aggregate and split. the scene where the man wearing plaid strikes the man in a denim shirt, drawing blood before they embrace bore no distinction in your mind at sixteen when you got snowed into your car with your crush, who you asked to hit you as hard as he could. he refused your request, so you never asked for a kiss. sequence is crucial. no one will touch you like a man if you aren’t one. despite whatever work you’ve done on yourself since, the mountain air tastes like an ocean of river stones, gossamer, some frivolous instinct shifting into weather. it’s too much to ask to become what you have seen.

Copyright © 2024 by Xan Forest Phillips. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 9, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.