Published on Academy of American Poets (

After Touching You, I Think of Narcissus Drowning

How desire is a thing I might die for. Longing a well,
a long dark throat. Enter any body

of water and you give yourself up
to be swallowed. Even the stones

know that. I have writhed
against you as if against the black

bottom of a deep pool. I have emerged
from your grip breathless

and slicked. How easily
I could forget you

as separate, so essential
you feel to me now. You

beneath me like my own
blue shadow. You silent as the moon

drifts like a petal
across your skin, my mouth

to your lip—you a spring
I return to, unquenchable, and drink.


Copyright © 2021 by Leila Chatti. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 14, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I turned to the myth of Narcissus as a way to understand a man I loved, but the myth ultimately revealed to me at least as much about myself. What interests me about Narcissus is not his vanity, which I think is a mischaracterization, but his desire, an obsessive yearning that is his undoing. I am that kind: one whose desire leads to self-destruction—one who knows this, and still chooses it.”
Leila Chatti


Leila Chatti

Leila Chatti is a Tunisian American poet and the author of Deluge (Copper Canyon Press, 2020), winner of the 2021 Levis Reading Prize and the 2021 Luschei Prize for African Poetry; Tunsiya/ Amrikiya (Bull City Press, 2018); and Ebb (Akashic Books, 2018).

Chatti served as the inaugural Anisfield-Wolf Fellow in Writing and Publishing at Cleveland State University and as the provost graduate fellow in the creative writing PhD program at the University of Cincinnati. The recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Chatti is currently the Grace Hazard Conkling Writer-in-Residence at Smith College.

Date Published: 2021-01-14

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