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I found a border in my body, slipped my fingers over
its simple seam until
I felt its stitches unwind and open. Out come scattered
brick walls, an autoworker’s ruined shoulder, hard clay
burned the color of bloodshot eyes, glass
skyscraping sugarcane with syringe tips
like hypodermic needles, the powerful
tongues of my mothers and fathers lit with dying
sallow leaves and the vicious wind that runs
through their hollow, viruses and languages on stilts teetering
toward their next source of warmth. What did not run
was the tin daguerreotype of a white man
I thought was ugly until I knew to love
the thick scar that swims along his throat. The photo’s
throat. Its lampblack coat. That pulse of silence before
rough music. His fragile Adam’s
apple my past, a static knot, a frozen attempt
to wet the dry petal of the tongue, to call back
into the void that was the home. I become
seven generations of yes and the carnival tears
plum night out of morning. My fingers make a map. My eyes crawl
across the busted treeflower of my chest and watch
the wilted flanks of the seam move like lips
in unison, swallow whole
a buzzard’s beak, the culture’s talons: say no, no more, no.
• • •
Life Inside the Clock
The kettle tilts up like an unknown earth
placed, uneven, over the gas flame.
There is an amber residue that slips
the flavor of animal fat into water
but does not make it soup.
(We know what is and is not food.)
Watch the ancestor watch
the kettle the way a child
watches a mother’s sleep
consume the room—the dream
seen from outside of it. There
is a harsh spirit wheeling in the air
like liquid glass thickening
between her gaze and where
I want her slow work to lead
you. To lead me. The eternal curve
in her back is the dark muscle
in mine. Her hands died
and became my hands. Her song
seethes and lights the burnished bones
that cage my mouth. I learned I had
her brother’s laugh—still
have. Still, always watching. Above
the sky-blue lilt of gas fire. Before
I can hear that simple whistling—
and while I know I cannot
see inside the kettle: I make myself
believe a single shrill pocket of air
tighter than my father’s fist
is crawling now, escaping up
the black insides
of its small and temporary room.
Aaron Coleman is the author of Threat Come Close (Four Way Books, 2018) and the chapbook St. Trigger, selected by Adrian Matejka for the 2015 Button Poetry Prize. A Fulbright Scholar and Cave Canem Fellow, Aaron’s poems have appeared in journals including Boston Review, FENCE, and New York Times Magazine. Aaron is currently a PhD student at Washington University St. Louis in the Comparative Literature Program.
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