Written

6/12/16

about this poem (scroll down for the actual piece):

although i’ve written poems about pulse before, i think it’s impossible to describe the trauma this shooting left on the queer community without explicitly including the words spoken by survivors and victims inside the nightclub (info in comments). i know this comes multiple days late — the five-year anniversary of pulse was almost a week ago. regardless of how long it’s been, however, the memory of this shooting lives fresh in the minds of queer people across the world. frankly, things haven’t changed at all. at a macro level, hate crimes rose after pulse, and anti-queer policies, such as discrimination against trans individuals in sports, workplaces, and more, have spiked. at a micro level, individuals find any way they can to justify heteronormativity and outright homophobia, such as when they eat at chick-fil-a (yes, if you eat at chick-fil-a you’re a bad person, i don’t care about your opinion on this) or make fun of individuals such as myself who use neo-pronouns. furthermore, queer people of color — specifically queer Black people — live in the nucleus of various intersecting vulnerabilities. instagram activism is super performative so i don’t really have much to add here. all i really want to say is that queer people will always be on the margins of society in some way. you think “discourse” about neopronouns and nounpronouns is exhausting? conservatives are still too stupid to understand the grammatical ramifications of they / them pronouns. conservatives will ALWAYS be two decades behind us. we will ALWAYS be a joke to them. they will ALWAYS move the goalposts to whatever reactionary, pseudo-scientific viewpoint they can latch onto next. fuck it all lol. live how you want to. embrace your marginalization. you’re in a community they will never have access to. queer culture is so, so gorgeous in a way heteronormativity will never capture. yeah, we’re weird, we’re not “normal,” we’re “cringe” or “faggy” or whatever. at least we’re not such special snowflakes that our dicks shrivel up when we see a woman wearing a suit or some shit.

please note: this poem is best viewed on a computer, not a phone.

Poem About McDonalds

when i was young,
my mom would take me
to mcdonalds every saturday
while my dad & brother
went hiking with our friend Craig.
i would order the usual,
(six chicken nuggets, honey mustard, bbq sauce)
eat the skin off each one
then count the number of bites
based on how many nuggets i had left.
six nuggets left – i’ll eat this one in six bites. five nuggets – five bites. so on.
like all things,
this ritual ended
when Craig moved to san diego
& i grew older,
& my brother was busy with school & dad
was busy too.

sometimes,
i imagine myself –
adulthood just out of reach –
dissecting each nugget as if
the restaurant were a morgue,
& think there must be a metaphor in there
somewhere, that this nostalgia somehow means
something, that i could reconstruct this memory
& publish it in POETRY or The New Yorker
or someplace.

of course,
these are always empty threats.
there was never any poem
in that place –
dad was an alcoholic
& Craig was a coke addict
& my brother had cancer
& mom was always stressed with work
& the nuggets were always
slightly too cold anyway.

do it.
write this revisionist romance.
open your mouth
like a wound.
chew on this memory
& make it nothing.
swallow it with your pride.

I Leave the Bagels Unfinished

i could
have eaten them –
the bagels, i mean.
they went stale yesterday
& i could have eaten them.
today, mold.
i could have eaten them,
except they come in packs of six
& have a shelf life
of four days,
meaning i would have to
eat one & a half bagels a day,
a dilemma i did not consider
when i bought them last week.
i will not half-ass a bagel, so instead
i leave them blue
& pungent & spotted
like a herpes-infected smurf.

i could
have seen you before you died,
bought a plane ticket
or called
or sent a letter
but i was at work or school or
busy studying,
busy.

speak this unspeakable truth.
speak mundane’s cruelest language.
speak
till you are stale
& restless & nothing
but compost.
in enough time,
all decay looks the same –
blue
& pungent & so,
so unfinished.

Plant Nanny

i have this app called Plant Nanny –

basically, you have a virtual plant in your phone.
every time you drink a glass of water,

you tell your phone,
& your little plant is watered too.

you can water it
let it grow

foster it
or you can watch it wilt.

of course, being a responsible,
competent college student, i

let it die within the first week.
i have learned a lot from this plant app,

like when you see a virtual plant
die in front of you

it does not motivate you to drink more
water but it does motivate you

to feel really fucking guilty about yourself.

i have this thing called my mind –

basically, you have this analog brain in your head.
every time you do something healthy,

your brain senses it,
& your mind lights up too.

you can water it
let it grow

foster it
or you can watch it die.

of course, being a responsible,
competent college student,

i have long felt
depression’s parched, calloused grip

around my throat.
dehydrated hands

& desert lips.
i have learned a lot from my diagnosis –

like when you see your own body
evaporate in front of you

it does not motivate you to drink more
water but it does motivate you

to feel really fucking guilty about yourself.

mental health is like a garden.
you can water it

let it grow
foster it

or you can neglect it
watch it wilt

watch it wither
sometimes

it’s the small things –
pruning the split ends

from my hair
like dead branches.

avoiding the shower
for a week, then

running my fingers
dry along my scalp,

dandruff drifting
in the air

like a swarm of dandelion
seeds in the sizzling summer breeze.

my brother
telling me

to just go outside,
that if only

you had a little more sunlight
or just drank some more water

you would be fine.
sometimes

i wonder if i should
just die. like

i only thought about this plant
once i saw it had already wilted.

why is watering myself
the hardest thing i’ve ever done?

like
again, i’m lying awake

at night – rose-petal ribs
& poison-ivy palms –

petrified of my own
drought.

isn’t it funny
how the moon

always turns a firefly
into a phoenix? like

my own mind
is an invasive species

i can’t fight off.
what is this pain

if not perennial?
every year

on my birthday,
i awake to a new

red-ring scar engraved
on my tree-trunk limbs.

i’ve spent years
dealing with self harm.

sometimes,
i saturate my skin

& germinate
my guts,

my spine
a nursery of dread.

if i could mutate my mouth,
i would.

if i could fertilize my fear,
i would.

if i could drink fucking water
without exhausting myself,

i would.
self-care is like a garden –

you can water it
let it grow

foster it
or

you can neglect it
watch it wilt

watch it bleed
sometimes

i cut myself open
& rip out each vein

like a weed.
i am always thirsty,

but i am too busy
baptizing my bones in blood

to get a glass of water.
i can’t keep a

virtual plant alive
– not even

the fucking cactus –
because i

am too crazy
to remember

that if i don’t drink water,
it will die before i do.

when my brother asks
if i am feeling any better

after his advice,
i tell him that,

truthfully,
every night i imagine myself –

somewhere –
beneath six feet of dirt.

Gravity

at a maximum height of 746 feet, the Golden Gate Bridge is the most popular suicide destination in the world. accounting for gravity, it took six seconds to reach the water from the place you jumped.

6.

& with a warm kiss,
you’re gone. six months
after you left
to study physics,

i sift for clues
in research articles
published long before
your death.

5.

as if endlessly grasping
for god’s arm, it
is impossible for two
atoms to touch.

sharing the same charge,
electrons on the outside
of atoms repel each
other. technically speaking,

the closest one gets
to touching something
is hovering just
above it.

4.

i could write
a metaphor for water,
compare the ocean
to god –

say
in the seconds
before impact, you found
yourself in its image,

your arm
outstretched
& shivering in the
kinetic midnight air.

to do so, however,
would imply
that you actually
touched it.

3.

the night you jumped,
it was cold enough
for the sea
to almost

freeze. there,
the current slows with
each moment, as if
each molecule

were an interlude
in your own death.
as your palms hover
just above

the water, i imagine
them, still warm,
cradling a birthday candle
between your lips.

then,
a soft breeze.
your breath melting
in the air forever.

2.

of course,
time never really
freezes. only,
the larger an object grows,

the longer each second lasts.
in this space,
i have time to ask you why.
i have time to find your mother.

i have time to write this poem. and
another. and another.
what comes from smoke
is more smoke.

what comes from heat is more heat.
in six seconds,
i have spent years
waiting for your return.

1.

despite centuries of research,
physicists are woefully unable
to explain gravity.
although undocumented,

it’s believed that gravity
has an equal and opposite force
somewhere in the universe.
in this way,

we are never truly apart.
somewhere, a place exists
where the air
does not heat

& the sea does
not thaw &
you are still
there

as you were once,
wings endlessly spread.
truthfully, Luka,
my pen

is the only force
keeping gravity from
killing you
a second time.

i don’t fight
for extra seconds;
i just write the clock
differently. each day,

i close my eyes &
count down
until, again,
you are right here.

sometimes,
i swear
if i reached out at night
i could graze your arm,

wet with longing, as if
each finger
were a passing wave
on your skin. but just

as i remember
atoms can’t touch,
my hand slips
& again

there is nothing
but moist air and darkness.
even though
i am always disappointed,

i still hope
the ink dries
before tomorrow,
or at least –

0.

ELEGY (ii.)

in an instant
the blood runs

& the eyes shut
& the lungs shriek for air.

you ask how i’m feeling,
& i respond

whatever the opposite of weightless is.
& what a sick & sadistic

symphony silence performs.
how strange a song

held breaths compose.
of course

you reject the music & instead
insist on an orchestra of heartbeats & pressed lips

& i make no sound
except the frantic arrangement of tremors & gasps

like the percussion of
skyline & sea

& you glide your fingers along my thigh
& i wonder

if this is how it feels
to will away gravity. again

you ask how i’m feeling,
& i croak out an ensemble of worship

two octaves above my natural voice.
what a brief & beautiful rhythm lust is —

to chant crescendos of tension
& drown in the downbeat.

i tell you i fear the ocean;
you say you’re a strong swimmer.

we kiss,
& for six seconds

i believe it.

The Law of Conservation in Four Acts

and from whom does God commission light? beneath the sultry embrace of my mother’s fists, the buck’s torso shutters but it remains stagnant. its carcass trails the muted glow of her fingertips, and i wonder under which breath the beast first fathomed its own passing. i ask, and she clutches its horns and her hands tremble and her mouth quivers, and she whispers of the silent, restless elegy of heat escaping the corpse. truly, i doubt the burden algor bears on a beast. 

before dinner, my father methodically strips the meat from the buck’s skin. mother finds comfort in this form of deliberate. the calculated shedding of being to bread // the systematic exchange of warm // to frigid // to sweltering beneath the brisk heat of the grill. the flame’s anxious tremble. the kindling forged from mortis. the outburst of the brazen body and its divine and magic hands. i call it playing God; mother calls it survival.

that night, i read that up to thirty stars explode in a given second somewhere in the universe, releasing enough energy to light the galaxy for weeks. i ponder what strange sort of magic it takes to devour a supernova, and after research, learn that a star’s life ends when it consumes the entirety of its fuel and is no longer capable of burning. crushed by the calloused grip of sulfur and iron, the star becomes so dense it collapses beneath the weight of its own gravity. 

the day you died, 2,592,000 stars exploded somewhere in the universe. i ask God which one he used your body for. i ask God how it feels to be kinetic. he says nothing, but glows.

Synonyms for Flight

departure; an act or instance of diversion (i.e., escape, exodus, passage) [+] exit; an act of going out or leaving (i.e., retreat, removal, withdrawal) [+] the heat preceding combustion [+] the brief procrastination of gravity [+] the hesitation of the flame [+] the margin between sky and soil [+] the interval between dancing and drowning [+] to live on instinct + fear survival [+] to speak static into slaughter [+] to speak chaos into carnage [+] to flee [+] to fire a bullet into wind + drown the shell [+] to be the shell + the bullet [+] to enlarge an aperture so hollow as to swallow (i.e., blood, spit, saltwater) [+] to dub the unknown as heaven [+] to buckle + bend so violent you swear you can touch heaven [+] to touch heaven

from the upcoming album Liquid Smoke.

ELEGY (i.)

i’m told that if you
fold a piece of paper in half 42 times,

the result is long enough
to reach the moon. somewhere

you hover between 33 & 34 folds.
i pleat the first crease.

you enfold me in your arms
divided by the delicate murmur of

electricity & hushed breaths.
the city unfolds

from daylight to dusk.
a car whizzes by.

we never speak of this moment.
i seal the fourth crease.

we are engulfed by the gentle
hiss of the radiator,

the muted hum of the TV screen. you reach for the
power button. i grab your hand.

after seven creases
the paper is too thick to fold further.

i unravel it & see a boy tango
with the space between static & saltwater.

in the margins, i scribble your name —
Luka. Luka. Luka.

the bridge unwinds into music
& then nothing. the car

whizzes by & the city unfolds
from gentle whispers to muted static

& you reach for the power button
but no one grabs your hand. if i were to

fold this into an airplane &
throw it off the Golden Gate,

i wonder how far it would fly.