Jamie Lee Heath
In which I try reducing you to numbers:
I. Nothing is complete until I’ve shared it with you.
II. Two chocolate bars melting in the back seat.
Two teacups from the shelf, too high to reach.
III. The scarring on your chest.
IV. Studies suggest this could be
the hottest year on record
since 1880. And as we age,
the ground may come to a boil,
burning the flight from our feet.
Still, I think: how
lucky are we
to pilot the same combusting star?
V. The feather-touch of fingers in dawnlight.
To the man in my poetry class,
I was talking with a friend, reflecting
on the pristine pages of her portfolio.
I gushed over the unconditional love
radiating from her stanzas. Her poetry
made me feel safe, warm, and all fuzzy
in my Feeling Cabinet(™). I was excitable,
talking too fast.
All you saw were my hands.
You limped up beside us and reached
right into our conversation. You curled
your white fingers around the slimness
in my wrist like the cold, bony cuffs
of convention. You held firm, putting an end
to the error I didn’t even realize I made:
“Okay,” you said, “Now talk.”
I talk with my hands. It’s one of those ADHD
things I can’t really control about myself,
like bouncing my leg, forgetting my own name,
or tuning out tired poems about the socially
divisive evils of millenial technology.
My hands are so constantly in motion,
I barely notice their punctuating posture when I speak.
My hands are mediums, possessed by festive ghosts
who have made it their undying duty in this mortal coil
to turn my social life into a one-man puppet show.
Only, you thought this show needed one man more.
I realise now, in this late hour, you were right.
THANK YOU for inserting yourself into my conversation.
Before you so boldly jumped in to save the day,
I only had ten fingers, an other woman, and my train of
---umm like, thought
to keep me on track.
THANK YOU for taking on this task
when you saw my hands twisting and
turning through the tides of turbulence.
You’ve been doing this a lot longer than me,
which obviously makes you the authority
on how a moderately attractive young lady
ought to conduct her own body
in a precariously prestigious setting
such as Glendale Community College.
Where would I even be without
#OldWhiteMen to educate me?
Granting me permission to speak,
stifling all the egregrious gestures
that make a girl
with my silly smartphone
and silly Handspeak.
To the man in my poetry class:
Thank you for reminding me.
I’m sorry. I forgot.
Forgot my place,
Forgot my thought.
These hands are far too loud
to be anything but silly.
Aren’t you glad you caught me
so you could set me free?
What could a silly
girl like me
without a man
around every corner
to take her wrists
are you a boy or a girl?
d’you prefer pink or blue?
you don’t want to turn out gay
do you? sweetie, what if
to hurt you?
come on, please? can’t you
pose pretty for me? can’t you
tuck your teeth together
and smile, smile, smile
so sweet you split
at the seams?
can’t you spare us
of “he” and “she?”
can’t you pick one
and make it easy for me?
are you a boy or a girl?
what’s with that face?
d’you have something to say?
what can I do to make you feel safe?
and by the way, is it okay
if I use your dead name,
I mean, your birth name?
just for today,
just while they can see,
just in front of The Family.
they’re going to ask,
so please forgive me:
are you a boy, or a girl?
how does it feel to be different?
when did you choose to be different?
why do you always need
to act so different?
who did this to you;
where did he go?
what did he touch
to make you
is that it, sweetie?
are you still dangling
from a sick man’s string?
is he the thing
you’re digging out
of your head? is he
at the end
of every wire
then answer me this:
are you the girl he hurt
or the boy he created?
with the best of intention, I ask:
are you his victim
or his invention?
are you a boy, or a girl?
are you my daughter, or are you dead?
are you some kind of confused, or just
sick in the head? are you sure
this is you? are you doing okay?
is there a pill you can take
to make this go away?
to make you feel better
so we can get through the day
this “gender neutral” thing
this “transgender” thing
this confusing and delicate
and sensitive thing. this thing
dripping out of your eyes
and between your thighs.
is it asking too much
for you to be happy?
God gave you that body.
is that not reason
to be happy?
© Jamie Lee Heath
1) After your bacchanal brother, you kiss the slick forehead of the muscleless rind you once loved.
2) The thick Hennessey once betrothed to your brother’s coal lips smolders the hearth of your throat. It was either that or the pungent taste of embalming fluid. How it settles into the skin, undoes fallen flesh fresh, the beloved’s carcass a plum plump with its coral steel, the beauteous fruit profuse in its bounty, ripe with the vitric lye, the husk of him an unwavering gray & the transient taste of mortality that true love’s kiss won’t awaken when the black body becomes slack.
3) You attempt to quantify your grief.
4) He filled your phlegm with asterisks.
5) The crescent scar on his left hand?
*After Natalie Diaz / After Franny Choi
His Moon Was a Straitjacket, a Big White Pill in the Sky
& his mother’s corazón was an asilo
soon after he broke. He slumbered
assassin, that he was. Savage dragon
whom Beowulf slew. Crickets would fidget
in the fluorescent dusk
as we—(the townspeople)—gathered to see
what the fuss was. Was it seething sanity
that caused us to look
upon the elusive fugitive with chagrin,
or the pallid deaths of a thousand nights
which caused us to bind
our minds? He was our own trapecio
who balanced on the backs
of cricket cadavers,
their pequeñas tripas festooned
the floor like Frida’s roots. It was late
April when we watched
him unfold like the throat of Gehennah
to devour us. Abundantes infieles. Cosecha
de traidores. The night
we admitted him, his sky was an oil
slick gown of confusion. His official
diagnosis was psychosis
when he returned to us lucid & luminous
like Gabriel’s annunciation.
the slender shoulder of his holy ghost
as if to say: I’m sorry there was no wake
for the death of your brain,
that rotting waste
imbalanced absconds no man
can trek without a canteen
Crickets twisted their little
laments into the tapestry of night,
shucking small songs
under the waxen trance
of moonlight. The day his lunacy
went into hibernaculum
we all celebrated, but what
was the point? There was no more
village to burn to cinder
Report on a Landscape with [ ]’s Psychotic Break Inside or Scene Between Mi Primo y La Luna
Axis of asymmetry
To oleander doom
Caesuras like wrists
Trysts of flesh and bone
The torso a brown taffeta gown
The skin split into sonetos
Each sinew a volta
The secret of syllables
The pyre of pentecost
The tensing of tongues
The voguing of Vulgate
The servitude of Salomé
Matins’ bread of days
Vespers’ meat of nights
Manic meads of in between
Altogether moon muddled
The dissipation of luna moths
Aesthetic and ascension
Calvary and cutlery he is
Barbed diadem reduced
To cranial coronet of sorrow
Still Life with Human Immunodeficiency Virus
Mississippi girl is the first child to be “functionally cured” of HIV, researchers announced Sunday.
--Saundra Young, CNN, Mar. 4, 2013
Mississippi baby scientists thought was “functionally cured” of HIV now has detectable levels of the virus in her blood, her doctors say.
--Saundra Young and Jacque Wilson, CNN, Jul. 11, 2014
Its precious blood is poured everywhere - soothing, healing, saving.
—St. Benedicta of the Cross
its eyes shut. At the reprise
of a lullaby,
the hearth of her chaste throat
to be formicated by a swarm
of sloe, scorching locusts:
in the seventh circle
of her guttural
hell. In a dream,
her thumb & blood doesn’t
chafed notes dripping
from a red mandolin.
In lieu, a god’s
knot of ichor floods
her mouth. Phantom
cellos in lab coats
to the dirge
of her cries tonight. Black
diatribes won’t leap
from their lips
like an achromic doe
into a thicket
***Jabari Jawan (he/him/his) is a black Xian man, poet, performer and teaching-artist from Chicago, IL. He loves God, Baldwin, Talenti's sea salt caramel gelato and his mama. He currently lives in Phoenix, AZ where he often serves as a consulting teaching-artist and workshop facilitator for Black Poet Ventures. His poems are forthcoming from The Shade Journal and Vinyl Poetry. You can follow him on Twitter @thedarktrapeze.
Kimberly has been fortunate to travel to half the Spanish-speaking countries in the world by the time she was forty. As a traveler into different cultures, she has learned to listen ask questions, and seek points of connections. This page is meant to offer different points of connections between writers, words, ideas, languages, and imaginations. Thank you for visiting.