Dear “i am running into a new year”

Image: STELLA © Vincent Fandos, posted at Flickr by Vincent Fandos under a Creative Commons License.

Dear “i am running into a new year”,

The sea is always restless somewhere, and elsewhere, always calm.

You ripple like truth on the tides. This is why I feel certain so many people reach for you, whether – as you yourself say – they are sixteen, twenty-six, thirty-six. You know each of us collects a suitcase full of hurts in each decade, that we refine upon them as the years gyre in us. You know we invent new and strange tides of shamework for ourselves. You remind us that we needn’t live there, not even if shame is our country of origin. Not even if it is the underwater language we were taught at our birth.

“i am running into a new year”, it is a new year. I don’t know what to make of 2023, or what, more accurately, it will make of me. You say with such aching matter-of-factness that old years blow backwards into our hair, like you know I’ve been growing my hair back and deciding what secrets I want it to keep. You have a knowing about you, dear small poem, so pocketable and ready, but not like a handful of sweeties. Pocketable like a living blade that opens the path for you, and a friend. You are the very definition of a friend who helps another by existing. Anyone who puts you in her pocket on this first day of January is inviting a calm sea into herself. I want that for every being who turns to you. I want that for myself, too.

You are, and it feels truthful to say this, a kind of resolution that is both universally gentle and incalculably difficult. You’re gentle because you are asking us to forgive ourselves. You’re difficult because you are asking us to forgive ourselves for our own sakes. Not to be better children, siblings, lovers, partners, workers, citizens. Not even to be better humans… and this is why I reach for you so much on January first, “i am running into a new year”, because you aren’t even necessarily asking anyone to be good. Which is, you know, good, because I’m not sure I can be. Not as a default state of being. Not even as an aspirational platform. I can try my best to be true, which isn’t the same thing, and that is okay, you seem to be saying. The direction in which you are running points towards the truth of oneself. Always restless, and always calm.

P.S. You should know you enjamb so beautifully. Goddamn. You flow into yourself like oxbow lakes serving no masters but tide and time. You wind about your own body, serpentine, ouroboratic in grace and sinuous yessitude. I could move to the rhythms you make every year. I hope to find myself here once more, January first twenty twenty four, to discover more about the body of water I am. Will I be restless? Will I be calm?

P.S.S. ‘Even thirty-six’. Oof. I feel that, you know. I am that, as it so happens. Thirty-six, with growing hair. Thirty-six, with strong fingers. Even at thirty-six, thank you for reminding me of how many forgivenesses I am worth.

Read “i am running into a new year” by Lucille Clifton.

Dear “Blue Anther”

Image: Hauling in the Net, posted at Flickr by Denish C under a Creative Commons License.

Dear “Blue Anther”,

What are you going to do with my blood? Wherever I walk, I see sites irradiated by love, petrified from it: a bus stop turned inside out, metallic and whining. A pair of crusty sneakers slung over a high wire, tongues tangled in each other. When I read you, I am that alert to what loving does, to the space it makes. I read you then wander, aching and rudimentary in my longings.

“Blue Anther”, however lonely you might otherwise make me feel, when I’m in your lines I’m in the company of men who love each other romantically, carnally, which is to say: one of the places I feel safest. What you do in your startling economy lulls me even as it cores my tender parts: your images of shoes and cellphones are as ordinary as your images of laurel and white hinds are… not. There’s something radically beautiful about the way you create room for an ecstasy of rarity in the mundane, then contort your spine inside out to show the inverse, gleaming like the wounded belly of every thing a man can hunt.

I know poems can be used to make our suffering feel exquisite. Lately, I’ve begun thinking that suffering is just a state of being that fucking sucks. You aren’t trying to convince anyone that pain is legendary or lovely or anything but painful, really. When one man bleeds into the mouth of another inside you, it’s still blood. I don’t love you because that notion is sublime. I love you because it makes sense. You remind me that we’re all here to give each other a little blood, a little spit, a little come. Everything between us is fluid and messy, tangible and smeary, smooshed up with words we will never fully understand.

You’re compact enough to slip into my trousers like a shy blade, “Blue Anther”. It was hard to choose you, because I wanted to write to at least three of your other companions in this way: a giddy confessional, a half-high chorus of whispers crescendoing to giggles and sighs and the sucking of teeth. The poet who makes you and those three others makes me believe in rest. Of all states, maybe this one is the strangest to single out, but it’s what you’re talking about, isn’t it? In your final lines, the flesh two lovers share is transmuted beyond the boundaries of the tangible. In loving, in the sempiternal everydayness of cohabitation, two bodies become post-bodies, proto-bodies, melting or coalescing, plummeting or rising, but together. Separate, but somehow yes, together. Lying down in the crucible together. Becoming more and more the other even as they split apart.

You split me apart, send me in search of the other within/without myself. When they come, can you give them a really sweet taste? Like violets, alright? Like black licorice and clove cigarettes and rain. Make them a feral woman, “Blue Anther.” Lord, make them a gentle man.

Read “Blue Anther” by Richie Hofmann.

Dear “Object Permanence”

Image: Lovers, posted at Flickr by Ferdinando Vella under a Creative Commons License.

Dear “Object Permanence”,

I don’t know the creature I am made in love. I reacquaint myself with her every time love comes for me, drags me by the waist into a canefield of my own conjuring. I am wildest where I want to be loved, where I ache to be touched. Nothing moves me so much as the desire of that newness: its prescience, its force, the way it could crush me.

But you tell me about love that’s lived through many seasons, which I confess I know less about when it comes to carnal desire. Do you think it’s possible to forget the way a body feels when it’s touched by hands that desire it? The people within you reach for each other when they wake in the morning, to remind themselves that they inhabit the same space, lie folded into companionate arms in the same bedroom, spit peppermint saliva into the same porcelain washstand, parent the same children or snake plants or superstitions together. You are a container, “Object Permanence”, for the litany of the always-togetherness of some flesh and bone bodies on this earth. You also remind me that to be forever entangled is to live, greedily and anxious, with the perpetual reminder of what waits for us after loving so hard.

I turn to you often. Not because I believe I am made, or even fated for love. Not because I think I am better in love, smarter, sweeter, more accomplished, less haunted. I turn to you because you’re a reminder of the rhythm of love: its susurration, its biomimicry, its solidity even as it slips through the fingers of time. Here’s the truth: I can’t get to the end of you without feeling something give, inside. There’s the sucker punch of that final line, every single time, but it’s not like being hit with a fist at all. It’s like being bladed open delicately with the sharpest instruments of the divine. Not many poems remind me I’m celestial and maggot food at once, but you do. I think you always will. I cannot imagine a better gift than that, a more enduring permanence.

Will you tell me about love until something kills me one day? It might be diabetes. It might be senility. It might be by the hand of a stranger, or in the embrace of someone I hold dear. None of us knows how we’re going to say goodbye to breathing, do we. All we can hope for — the most we can hope for — is that we do it in the arms of someone we adore. “Object Permanence”, I take so much delight in turning you over and over on my tongue, tasting you like the caterpillars gorging on milkweed in your stanzas. You remind me that human love, from the balcony view of the angels, is “brief animation”.

But oh, while it lasts? What fire.

Read “Object Permanence” by Nicole Sealey.