Photo by Ali Afzal on Unsplash


The weather of course and the afternoon light
that might as well be bad milk when
the air gets oppressive. Political speech
that won’t confess lust for domination
and old-fashioned chicanery. Dreams
of Richard Nixon, in happier times. That sweat.
That fever. My legs which ache
at night like I’ve marched long miles uphill.
This ticket stub. The movie
that was lifeless and dull and apologetic.
This song that will not leave
the day alone. Will not fade
into the night. I am thinking
of the scene when a man is mugged
and how terrifying it is
to learn the amount of violence
required to snap the femur in two.
O pain: nobody would believe me
were I to say I love you
and over time I have come to expect you like the seasons.
Nobody would believe me.
I could say to my mother
all our secrets forever will be safe
and the sulking goons
who surround us will unlearn their abiding contempt.
Because. Just because.
When I was a child,
I never attempted to wish on a star,
thinking all the air
and the words made from it a waste.
Desire. I was awake
all night trying to make sense of my body.
What it means to be
this name and say these words and love whatever is left.

Paul Guest

Paul Guest is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently Because Everything Is Terrible, and a memoir, One More Theory About Happiness. His writing has appeared in American Poetry Review, Poetry, The Paris Review, Tin House, Slate, New England Review, The Southern Review, The Kenyon Review, Western Humanities Review, Ploughshares, and numerous other publications. A Guggenheim Fellow and Whiting Award winner, he lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.