Categories
2018 Poetry

Bailey Cohen

SYMBIOTIC

Somehow it happened I was drinking
from the same river you bathed in you were busy
with a beautiful woman she was burning
the hairs off your leg with nothing
but an empty glass bottle and sunlight
what was it that you called her it was pretty
girl it was tough chin it was purple neck please
I am begging like something stray don’t say that
to someone who is not me to someone with legs
hairless as a shoreline instead talk with a mouthful
of my own hair whisper to me as gently as you would kiss
a lover’s closed eyelids use the language
our parents spoke that we have since
forgotten I’ll be the first to admit it
I’ve had fantasies of surviving
beside you like a remora to a shark instead
of slobbering over your jawline like rain
of course I find whatever distinction is present
unremarkable of course I remember your biting
into an apple red as an old photograph’s
overexposure how could I forget when I traced
your teeth marks with my finger-
nail I found the seeds and crushed them
into a powder so fine I could breathe it
in without even coughing I’m ashamed
to say that this was my best effort that
I knew something would grow inside of me
before it did what I didn’t know
was how loudly it would be birthed
we were sitting at the kitchen table
you were writing on a blue notepad
I was saving an apricot from rotting
by devouring it then somehow it happened
I was coughing up pieces of bark
a whole apple tree then a whole forest
even the animals you had no idea
how to act were wondering how all this would fit
into our apartment you were so concerned
with everything except my throat until one
of the birds that flew out of my eyes
landed on top of the refrigerator
hopped over to your shoulder
looked into your irises and gleefully
chirped out your name in perfect Spanish.


HAVE I EVER BEEN WICKED?

I have never broken
the wing off of something

delicate enough
to fly. What I have done is flock

like a shivering welp
to sharp things and blue-

hearted women. I miss you.
The way you would walk

into a room
as if you could lick

the words from another boy’s
throat. I can say more than you

of this—that I have loved
every woman

I have told that I
love

and touched none
of the men

I wanted. I’ve gazed
at other boys, with skin the color of

summer, wearing nothing but pity
and gold. What other secrets

can I tell you? That in all of my poems
I want everyone

to be winged? I know I act
like I can only be happy

when noticed,
that if you were lost

in some dense night,
I would spend

my days trying to swallow
the pink

of sunlight
just to glow beside your warmth.

If you can believe
in all my passivity, then you can trust

in all of my rage. Have I ever been
wicked? Just enough

to become a cruel and distant master
of a flame

and blow
a sword, its blade

made only of glass. Like a magician,
you hid

all of my labor
beyond your teeth, surrounding

what I made
with your body. I’ve never wanted more

than to be a ghost
and reach through your chest

and grab the shatterable thing,
only to forget

what I cannot touch. Like so many
sharp things, I know

I couldn’t stand to watch myself
disappear into you.


Bailey Cohen is a queer Ecuadorian-American poet studying at NYU. The founder of Alegrarse, the Associate Editor for Frontier Poetry, and a Best of the Net nominee, his work appears in or is forthcoming from publications such as Boulevard, Raleigh Review, [PANK], The Penn Review, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Cotton Xenomorph, and more. Bailey can be found across most social media platforms @BaileyC213. He loves everyone Latinx.