For The Boy Who Taught Me How To Say No
a tower of light a boy swallows a star a fox
breaks through a cage its nine tails wag over
the blood-soaked earth this is where grieving
is left in the teeth of those who pick our bones
after the battle is done there is nothing won
a mason uses a chisel to carve runes in a traitor’s ribs
a river of lamps the hawk follows the lightning
into the water and strikes a fish the fish leaps
to a bear’s waiting mouth this is the water it knows
running in fluid streams from jaws it has escaped once
before rather the jaws than the talons unknown
a glass of water let me be clear a glass
untouched for decades lying in a field filled
and refilled by the rains bison come to drink
from it and stare into their own black eyes deeper
than clouds above the traitor flees into a glass
into the bottom of a bottle he drowns under hands
he’s held his whole life hands he’s let go one
by one at the center of a whirlpool is a red glow
a boy holding himself hostage a boy reaching
through water someone pushes his back right
between his shoulder blades right behind his heart
i gave my mom a book of poems from the fifteenth
century, written by italian poets of the aristocracy.
what if i’m not ready? she said. no one ever is, i said.
she was confused about the topics covered by these
ancient men and women. how did they know about
cars and pyramid schemes back then? she said. they
knew the same way we know trains will hover and
the mafia will run the governments of the world,
i said. god, she said, this book is a fairy tale of
cannibalism. yes, i said. the best ones mention
consumption almost exclusively. the water drop
of your life is beginning to plunge from the top
of the waterfall. it’ll rejoin the river soon enough.
i raised you all wrong, she said. i never gave you this
experience, now you’re giving it to me. you raised me
exactly right, i said. you gave me nothing to expect,
and i expect nothing of the world. it moves through
us like wind. will it always be like this? she said.
most of the time, i said. sometimes the prince of
grief will join us. when he does, she said, will
you be there with me to make it easier? no, i said.
this is a journey we take alone. we all face the prince
eventually. it’s up to us to figure out what to say.
Sage studies poetry at Elms College, where they have also been awarded the Blue House fellowship. Their poetry appears/will appear in Ellis Review, figroot press, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, North American Review, Penn Review, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, and elsewhere. Short fiction forthcoming from The Binnacle. They can be found on Twitter @sagescrittore.