Yesterday While I Was Teaching I Nearly Cried
I didn’t tell this to George & Jeremiah
when we sat outside drinking
10 days before George was supposed to leave.
He will go back to Alabama I know,
to a night that shines like a polished shoe
walking through tall grass & we will all
try hard not to forget him
the way I’ve forgotten how my mother’s lips
pressed so hard against my cheeks as a child
she had to wipe off the stain.
All night we chatted contractions,
how it is can’t beat it’s
save for the way it is sounds like it’s
falling off a cliff. But this isn’t why
I nearly cried. I nearly cried
because I read Terrance Hayes’ God is an American
to a room full of slightly beyond children
and their stares had the glossed over look
of just-misted produce & I could only talk
of how a sonnet is a breakable kind of form
& not of how some mornings I woke
before you did & touched your skin
for a long time. Adulthood then seemed less of a cliff
jump than a wading into warm water.
I wanted our love to be a myth other people studied.
A whisper of wind softening the pages of a book.
But this can’t happen. It’s gone now.
Not even a poem could save it. Not even
the calm memory of a morning spent waking into your hair.
Before the class where I nearly cried
I printed that poem off the Internet & photocopied it 30 times.
A sonnet is a breakable kind of form.
I poured a cup of coffee for myself but my hands
were shaking so much that the liquid
jumped an edge & stained the warm pages.
If It Is Raining There
You tell me from 3,743 miles away
that it is raining there in Spain, and tell me
once more, again, later,
that it is raining still, and raining harder.
There is always a reason to remember
everything. The thin pattered covering
of a window echoing. Somewhere
in a place you do not recognize, music.
Your quiet, or, how you feel alone
sometimes, because nothing reminded you
of what you are always reminded of.
I would leave now if I could, board
a plane, prove I can sit with you
in silence. But I am broke. The dryer
did not do its job. My clothes are hot
and damp. I hang them on a fan,
the rail that knows my closet. To tell
a woman that you are always
scared, to slice a mango in winter
when no fruit is ripe: this is what it means
to know that you are in love.
It is winter here. Snow has fallen
almost everyday. Sometimes the wind
sings it horizontal. I think of Jochebed,
bundling Moses in a basket lined
with pitch and tar. I think most days
we are as close as we come to being holy.
I think even the rain knows you are beautiful.
I think rain is half the language
of silence. I wish I could sit in it, to watch
your love hum a warm circle on the window.
Sometimes, you sing to me.
I wonder if you are singing now.
While Spooning the Beast
after Steve Scafidi
I know the floor of my apartment
is too fragile for the bison to walk,
so I carry him. Past the church too far
down the corner with the red door,
into a bodega to buy coffee where a man
asks me if the animal knows how
to speak Spanish. He might, I tell him.
Es posible. But I’ve never heard him
speak before, and I don’t know
what stories he keeps hidden from me.
At night we hold each other in sleep.
Something in his soft flesh below
fur hints at heartbreak, a curved spine
burdened by sentimentality. I feel
we dream the same dreams. There were
a thousand rivers he crossed to reach
this city, and a thousand rivers to return.
A thousand rivers to bend into to quench
a thirst. And the rest of this country
doesn’t know we are here, in a city
with no horizon, where I tend to
a small patch of grass in the far corner
of my room. I am in love with the half-finished
sentence, how the city offers us no sustenance.
I am in love with being out of love.
I am sorry. I am sad. Tonight I turn
to him in sleep. I say we’ll get out of here.
I say we’ll find a place with no one
to forget our names. He nods himself
into heartbreak. Or we will wait,
I think, for the aftermath of destruction,
walk amongst the wreckage while
the steam of our collective breathing
fogs the air. And we might be sorry.
And we might be sad. And how there is love
tonight, and how it is an animal, and how
I do not know if I am killing it
or it is killing me.
Devin Kelly earned his MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. His collaborative chapbook with Melissa Smyth, This Cup of Absence, is forthcoming from Anchor & Plume Press. His poetry, fiction, and essays have appeared or are forthcoming inGigantic Sequins, Armchair/Shotgun, Post Road, RATTLE, The Millions, Appalachian Heritage, Midwestern Gothic, The Adirondack Review, and more, and his essay “Love Innings" was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He co-hosts the Dead Rabbits Reading Series in Manhattan, teaches Creative Writing and English classes to high schoolers in Queens, and lives in Harlem. You can find him on twitter @themoneyiowe.