My head bristles with the ache of moonlight, the names
of vanished trees we never learned, flies that bejewel
some children’s eyes. This place wants to kill us.
This place wants to kill honeybees, staghorn coral, alligators,
marsh rabbits, swallowtails. When I say The poet’s husband
shot her outside the police station, we mean I should have been killed
at birth. I mean My country hates women. When I mouth another woman’s
lips, the timbre of one string plucked and swept from a cavernous hall
rises between us. This place wants to kill our surrender. When I trace
the geometry of another man’s pelvis, we christen a thirst
for which this place wants no word. This place that longs
to slice out our tongues. My father loved men. Men told my father
he was beautiful. No one else had ever. Not even my mother.
My father never touched another man or me. Only my brother
can say how it felt, my father’s red palm on his face, his back.
This touch they both know. Our lovers drink, hold us like sacrament
in their mouths. Our children know to listen for the rhythm
of stranger’s feet following too close, learn to read
every face. We teach our children this place will kill us all
for living, for breathing the pearled and poisoned air.