The trees teach me how to break and keep on living. Patience
and nuance and another kind of strength. That kind of life
wrought from water and mineral iron and loss, the perpetual loss
that emanates from underneath tongues, leaves. The hush splayed
across the jungle made of memory. More fearful for its lack
of movement. The sad lusciousness our eyes reason from a world
on pause. Motionless green. What we touch and see, immediate
as steam, then gone, collected. Tense, wet beads full of secrets; how
to make a branch long. Nothing swaying the weight of the trees.
(Beneath) I Watch One Constellation
When the boy pulled on the strap of the purse
I struggled to take back, I glimpsed a sadness
in his eyes before he let go more than gave
it up, let it come ripped back to me
and kept running. In that split moment, I sensed a key-
hole into something caging his exhaustion (did I, could I
see it?). As I gave the purse I had taken
back to the woman I loved, there was a pain,
a bridge we refused to believe. Uniform-blue hands forced
pressure points, years later, and worked my clenched
shoulders down to the concrete. I felt like a ghost
of that boy. Rage, grief- I wonder if he would feel so
(but I felt so)- flared across me just as instinct
reminds my body: yours is not the time to weep.
Very Many Hands
You remind me of the Underground Railroad. I've learned to watch for the kerosene lamp aglare in your distance. Past the fuel and wick at the far end of your forest, there's a mud basement, a soot-slick coal cellar with my sleeping body's name on it. I could lie still forever in that part of you. But then I'd never make it North.
I am made of what I am afraid to remember. Come tell me more about what I was - about the brothers, mind-ancient now, fleeing Mississippi with spilled moon ready in their eyes. Go back and tell me about that one before that one that sold a mother. Wait. Then give me more about the buzz of war, of San Diego shipyards, of handsome sailors you couldn't trust. Make vivid the night with me before me in it. Tell me what was lost on the way to Detroit. Tell me what was lost leaving Detroit. Tell me why I'm afraid for and of Detroit. Tell me Desire can't mean what it meant anymore. And I can't mean what I meant anymore. Am I lovesick with amnesia or nostalgia?
I sit twelve people down the church pew from you, burning to catch the rhythm in your blinking. I seek more than your face. It hurts to see the way sound makes a tunnel. Its root-veined walls there then gone. You and I compose another kind.
Witness my long line of lovestruck liars: those who can't take the sky, deceivers of their own eyes, change lovers, receivers of forgetfulness, ecstatic touchmongers, merciless collagists, the spiritually jack-knifed, ever-children and the like. I am each of them and heavy hands red on cold glass holding why-still-blue water, in dull music, surrounded by bloom, fear-lit and forever-fraught. This is a truth; not-quite-closed eyes scrambling over nakedness elusive as hope. But barely hope. Lovestruck, lying, I wonder about everything I'll find in this body - and this body. I wonder what it knows. I wonder about yours.
I am wrapped in a shawl of patchwork wants. Of languages displaced in veins. Of sheet rock cut open with explosives to force through byways and sow man-high seas of crops, to make space for interstates, for cold emergencies and tanks, and touch.
Which ballast will sink, loose, explode? Which myth will expire? If it's true what you remember, that my laugh sounds like a man you loved who lived before my life, then whose is my body? Whose memory lives inside my body? Whose sluice box? Whose wharf? Whose cleared forest? Whose slow-failing factory monotony? Tell me more about this body. Tell me its smoke doesn't dissipate on cue, minute, inscrutable. Tell me how pollution pollinates fire. Show me what floods this Middle West with more than water.
I am stitched together with the risk inside Desire. Call risk a bridge. Call one palm full of why-still-blue water- oh, how my mind is just my mind crossing. Not the limb of a ghost stuck in the hinge of a door. Not the fight lost inherent in a child. Who was it that dipped an index finger into my mouth, fished that penny from my tongue, saved me from some dumb Desire? Who was it? Who watched as I stood there too in line, too silent, trying to fall behind, an almost question in my near-new eyes?
-from Threat Come Close, Four Way Books 2018, selected by POW Fall 2018 Guest Editor, Tyree Daye
PROMPT: In "Vestigia," Aaron Coleman writes about the "perpetual loss / that emanates from underneath tongues, leaves." Like trees, our lives are marked by losses: the trees carry it in their rings, thin in years of drought, and we carry it in our shoulders, our hips, in the spine's curves and aches. This vestigial residue builds up within us, loss's shadowy weight. How to carry it? Write it out, dear reader, and see if those invisible weights shift inside you, growing if not lighter, at least less burdensome to bear. -by Associate Edityor Amie Whittemore
BIO: Aaron Coleman is the author of Threat Come Close (Four Way Books, 2018) and his chapbook, St. Trigger, was selected by Adrian Matejka for the 2015 Button Poetry Prize. A Fulbright Scholar and Cave Canem Fellow from Metro-Detroit, Aaron has lived and worked with youth in locations including Spain, South Africa, Chicago, St. Louis and Kalamazoo. Winner of the American Literary Translators Association’s Jansen Fellowship, the Tupelo Quarterly Poetry Contest, and The Cincinnati Review Schiff Award, his poems have appeared in journals including Boston Review, Callaloo, and New York Times Magazine. Currently, Aaron is a PhD student in Comparative Literature at Washington University St. Louis studying 20th-century poetry of the African Diaspora in the Americas.