BY C. BAIN
SELECTIONS BY OMOTARA JAMES
What is it that survives trauma? Or rather, outlasts it? Bain’s evocative poems offer elusive tenderness for those who traverse this liminal space. Through haunting portraits, the poet daringly reimagines the dailiness of these tortured mythological figures. Their relatable frailties leave us to ponder our own lusts. Though vastly different, the protagonists of both poems are generously afforded an agency unavailable in the original myths. What they do with it is another matter. Through the perspective of the speakers, Bain acknowledges transfiguration as restoration. These poems bridge the distance between hamartia and humanity. No sins left unsung, Bain leaves us to marvel at the creeping nature of human compassion as it ebbs…
(Persephone’s Husband Is Not Important And He Says)
She’s sitting on the bed
with her long legs folded under her.
Her eyes sliding away from me
as they like to do, like I’m a figure in smoke
like there’s a river of information
that only she sees. I want to ask her why
but I don’t. When the man took her
(the witnesses said chased, dragged)
trapped her under the earth
then she did what she did. It’s strange
when you think about it
that fruits are seeds and we
eat them, sugar fertile and harping
at the tongue. It bothers me
that that is what she took
not the utility of bread, but tart, crystalline
the skin red and transparent inside its covering
of outer, rougher skin. And now
she isn’t mine. I was never yours. It isn’t
ownership, she says, because since she’s come back
she reads my thoughts
and sleeps six inches above the bed,
moaning. I know this happened because
she does not believe I love her. Now I ask permission
to kiss her, air hissing past
my seedling teeth. I ask her why
she comes back and she puts her hell-hand,
her death hand, gilded immortal
against my cheek. I come back
because you need me. You would die
without the rain. Sucks at my tongue
until it bleeds sugar, a seed. Her nipple,
the crest of her ribs, the cells
of my body and the devices in the cells
and the space in between them. Whatever
life is. Electrical,
Please give it back.
After the Curse Was Lifted, Midas
fell & wept, the grass
emerald blades bent
at his kissing mouth.
It lasted weeks
his trembling hands tracing
rumpled bedsheets, ribs of living oxen
enough gratitude for any god.
He avoided his treasure-room
had the metal stripped off the cornices
cherished the wood’s raw bones.
But in some small span of human time
the truth; he wanted that power again
even if he’d starve, heartstiller, shitgleamer,
weeping alchemy out every pore.
He dreamt of it and woke and cursed.
And when his daughter disobeyed him
tell me he didn’t remember her small visage
frozen into metal. Tell me he didn’t wonder
if there had been some secret work around –
a gloved slave to feed him
and the question of women
if he could take them sudden enough to force
dilation before the metal took hold,
or if he’d have been forever
at a closed, golden gate.
He blamed the god
for giving him a wish that went too far.
Isn’t it god’s task to save you
from yourself? Wouldn’t a kind deity
have found some way to truly provide,
not this lawyer’s trick
food turned rock in the mouth
but no, here’s Midas
is thirst grown back.
His daughter alive.
His coffers howling.
C. Bain is a gender liminal writer, performer, and teaching artist, based in Brooklyn. He is a former member and coach of multiple national-level poetry slam teams. His work appears in anthologies and journals including PANK, theRumpus.net, A Face to Meet the Faces, and the Everyman’s Library book Villanelles. He has shared stages with Jim Carroll, Patricia Smith, Dorothy Allison, and Saul Williams. His plays have been produced in summer festivals at the Tank and at the Kraine in New York City. His full-length poetry collection, Debridement, was a finalist for the 2016 Publishing Triangle Awards. He is a book reviewer at Muzzle Magazine. He works extensively with movement, embodiment, trauma and sexuality. But he'd rather just dance with you. Visit.
Omotara James is a poet and essayist. Her poetry chapbook, Daughter Tongue, was selected by African Poetry Book Fund, in collaboration with Akashic Books, for the 2018 New Generation African Poets Box Set. Her debut full length collection, Mama Wata, is forthcoming in the Fall of 2018 from Siren Songs, of CCM press. She has been award fellowships from Cave Canem and Lambda Literary. Currently, she is an MFA candidate in poetry at NYU. For further information, please visit her website: www.omotarajames.com