Violence, I know you

so well it’s like you’re my real
lover, the reason I can’t stay
attached to anyone, making a heaven
out of beginning again & you
knock at my voice
as if I could speak you back in
as mine & I had time enough to learn
the secret of cruelty
as if that made it lose
its power over me, its antics
failing notice,

but it lives in us all like a question
we can’t answer but keep trying
because it feels good to & the secret
is it can’t last, 
& that is when it hurts—
we
who can’t bear to lose &
stitch to any nothing
that acts like a landing place but turns
out to be a fissure, we pretend
voices tell us it’s music
& familiar or alien
we listen, it’s only a dance
 

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

The Wind

It to take; or was it to be unpacked?
Packed it might signify death. The wind
Death the wind calculating your lesson—
hast thou learned a thing? The name of
a thing. I am still defiant, of the presumption,
as articulated. I passed him
in his velveteen jacket worn elbows. The
enculturated elbows of Death need patches.
Do you want my job? he said, for you are brave.
And you are the one different one . . . How do
you know? In your sleep I approach you
and you breathe on me, as if I were an object,
observable malice. I mean, he said, when you
die, that’s when you can be me. Spy then thief
always the one left; but then there’s more.
I’m too wild, I say; I’m an American. Maybe
I’m leaving—for where? bankrupt in
June, lost identity, lost shortcomings.