Poetics

xxiii

first you say his body is made different. I look this up

in all possible houses, to find only detergent and hints

that his body exists. you know how people leave certain

things behind when they move – that’s his body.

I try to write about you, about reading Ishion

to you in your sleep, your skin covered in vodka,

your hands grazed from the tight knot of the rope,

your tummy flat like some sad number, your mouth

slightly open, an invitation, your sex closed, and

on your forehead the words: his body is made

different, and I cannot resist it.

In your sleep, halfway into a poem, I say:

I want to be sad with you.

You tie me up nicely

and fuck me and feed me your fluids and wear that black

thing without any underwear on.

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Poetics

xxii

the heavy animal on ice, half thinking it needs water,

half thinking it needs a table mountain, to die,

something about the weight of a species.

you on the couch, all day, all week, watching

the animal hunt another, watching as the prey escapes,

sad this is how things must be. your apology the smell

of cigarette smoke from last week. then a yawn. and

the end of a species. and what’s pomegranate in Swahili?

blue for the curtain, the door opens to the commuter,

a man who brings you peanuts and beer and a body

of aging sandalwood and sweat (glass is made

in a pleasure dome with you and and the commuter and water and sand)

the man confused when you mention the chemicals

that have been killing us for years.

and when you open the door, there you are, like

I have never seen you: brown beret, Asia Minor eyebags, your face

full of water and the marks of a quiet war.

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Poetics

xxi

i cannot claim we invent any games, any more than they might say we’ve been invented by the people who sit in the garden looking back at us. passion. orange. guava. mango. zambarau. coming to the orchard only after we are spent from hurting each other, tired from performing and inventing ways of dying, we count fruits by a certain order: those that promise to fall, those ripe only for worms, those cursed to bitterness. not knowing what to do with the unreachable, we throw stones at them.
the canopy is so thick the place stays dark. we never see her. it is understood she is there and we are never to be seen in the trees. she is there in her blue garments, moving behind the trees, standing guard, turning into plant, knitting time into the fur of cats. if a fruit falls it belongs to the earth. sometimes she inspects a fallen fruit, always leaving it where it fell. so from an early age we learn to observe decay from a distance, not sensing it in each other.
one day the lady comes out for a stroll. we hide behind a door, watching her from the spaces between the loose wood. seventeen cats trail her, none daring to walk past her, their heads beautiful in the sun—her children. they look at us and fling their shawls around their necks, strutting like newcomers at a festival. two cats lick her pale feet, their tongues hard and wet and pink, another wrestles with the tail of her blue garment. we follow her round the block, thinking if the hour is suitable for licking each other. we throw stones and exchange blood and mascara and artificial sweetener. latecomers. she stops for a while at the jacaranda tree and kisses it. four years we have pissed on that tree. I think the lesson here is forgiveness. or forgetfulness.
at night we watch her shadow in the orchard. you give me your eyes—evening light. we follow her movements, our legs wrapped in bandages. at the centre she sits stooped, her hands full of dirt, strangling cats, as one might wring a favourite cotton dress the night before church. she buries them under the flowers of the mango tree. you want to know why i always refuse to come on your belly. 
we talk less and less, pay no attention to the whistling and tsk tsk tsk of the people in the garden. we learn how decay starts, how to sustain it, how to fear each other by loving animals, how to knead mud to get rid of all the air. mostly the beginnings of foreign alphabets.

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Poetics

xix

we trust strangers to give us directions. a man, happy to be of assistance, says: follow the man in the red shirt, don’t take corners if/when he does, you’ll see the great river, take the bridge, don’t take corners where the road does, don’t look into the river. you walk slightly ahead – the difference between directions and instructions. or tone and pace when the body is an altar. another way to say my restraint is to blame for everything.

at St. Luke’s Parish Gatina young men slit the throat of a much older man for sport. they smile at us and we have to smile back.

a man carries a flag, leading other men with flags, their women in white and red and green, dancing, their hair in scarves. so many churches. we share the stereo voices: you take the women, I take the men.

a woman serves us the deep-fried heads and necks and gizzards and feet of chicken. that they were once birds that much is obvious. we take in anything for the possibility of new images and sounds. the organs of birds are sexless, so we feed each other without using hands. and, anyway, we must not spend too much time on nomenclature. what you call naming. you are leaving soon and must replenish your archives for words beginning with j. for instance, the thinness of your neck, the pulse, and how your eyes stay sad when you laugh.

we walk down to the river, where men clean motorcycles in the dirty water. a child slings the head of a woman into the river. her wig comes off – one last act of resistance – before vanishing. to think the vanishing is the resistance.

currency men watch us from the small windows of bedrooms – you tell me they are collectors. or collectibles. after a long pause, what we have come to call I don’t know what to tell you, or indecision and blame, regret, you flip a coin: a fat and headless queen. the other side worn out into the smoothness of the tip of a penis.

and further up, or down, another river. unseen birds behind the thick of bamboo leaves. you’ve been wondering how long before I evoke leaves.

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Poetics

xviii

to watch you search for an apartment in the east side, room by empty room,
inspecting the walls for fungi
& the kitchens for space –
i learn the many ways you define
‘four movements': you are

acaracata.

the things they say
in interviews.
a younger man downstairs choosing to
Jump off the second floor and not the fourth.

his body saying it’s not yet time not yet time. his panting so loud it continues into dream.

you are.

thinking of pessoa in the moments before darkness
the scars
of men at the bar.

you’d like nothing more
than to see me curse freely.

but then the heavy movements, & your
juices in my bed.

you are.

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Poetics

xvii

a long experiment.

We have learned, through no faults of those things we cannot name, that poetry can take certain things from here.
You insist on less light in a room where the curtains are heavy and always drawn.

London Grammar.

20s men watch us through the night and make notes.

No fantasy of ours.

You said you only like a lover if he smells like whiskey. A few hours into the night they are bored and exchanging cigarettes and herpes. They burn the ends on your bags, where your shoulder makes a sudden drop. A poster to a festival on the wall – it might have already happened, or not; we don’t remember. There’s a festival right here of wrought iron and bite marks at the place your shoulder makes a sudden drop.

I learn how to love your sick body.

We learn to come to each other pole pole. Your tongue in mine and mine belonging to another.

Outside there’s a sunbird and a swing with no child on it.

Do you remember the nights in Mnarani? The old man who sold animals from the sea?

You talk about the possibility of attending a future festival together. It bothers you so much that there’s no one at the swing. We sleep with the music on repeat. If anyone is watching there’s not much they will miss.

Our bodies, sleeping, seek each other out, reject each other. One body smells of whiskey and the other one of Styrofoam and failure. The failure we share on equal measure. We sleep in your fluids. In a way we sleep in your orgasm. This is a blessing.

Your mother calls and you lie you read the bible every night. Your lips belong to me.

There’s a bus in the morning to South Coast, if you like we can be on it. I still don’t understand why I talk about Watamu. Kilifi. Old Town. Arusha. Dar. All the small towns in between.

Same way another couple will arrive here and imagine there’s life.

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Poetics

xvi

the memory is there, doubt in the daybed,
perspective has never changed: a child
staring at the mother, and another child

halfway out, in principle, at the heel of the other.

the lovers change, everything does.
but still that one thing and way of seeing,
a turning into crust then, finally, ash.

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Poetics

xv

always prepared for travel,

we come to a dark room

learning everything – cold,

position, desire, courtesy names

– by taste. mars’ hair. we are

not the people on the wall.

you adopt the voice of someone

who works at reception, or

a man who announces arrival.

your mouth is my machine.

some hesitation. then a laying

claim to drought, difficulty in

saying wait, don’t leave, i get full

custody of desire.

it matters little the position of

orange on the wings: we have

the noise in bed and that’s OK.

deo on the tongue.

you offer your arms in times

of bad dreams. you are the bad

dreams. that’s OK.

 

 

 

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Poetics

xiv

(a found poem)

I recently spent some time with a gay / friend in Hawaii. I consider myself basically / heterosexual but have had thoughts of anal and/or oral sex with a man but had not acted on those thoughts.

My friend in Maui has one of your Locker Room / fucking machines which he showed me. I accepted his offer to have the experience. He explained the entire procedure to me and I decided to go for it since we’re good / friends and I felt safe and secure in his company. He proceeded to very gently use lubrication / on my anus. I was really nervous but excited. He made me instantly / hard.

Then the first / smaller dildo was introduced into me. I nearly passed / out as it did hurt, but the reality of what was happening to me made me very excited. I eventually was being fucked / by an 8 inch thick dildo at rapid / speed and I can honestly say that I have never experienced anything that intense and erotic in my entire / life of having sex with / women and the possibly 4 encounters of being sucked / off by a man in a porno / shop.

I was absolutely wild and ecstatic / from the experience. After experiencing a total of 4 / shattering / orgasms, I used the machine on / my friend and provided him with a similar / experience. I now know and understand why / gay / men / love / to be / anally / penetrated by their male partners.

I intend to order the same / fucking machine / for my own future / pleasure. It was a real highlight and I loved the experience my / male friend introduced me to. I later had the experience, again for the first time, of being / fucked by my friend enjoying a similar / experience of his penis penetrating me and did the same for him. Again, a totally brand new / homosexual experience for a straight / man willing to experi / ment.

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