After Bernadette Mayer


The truth is I am lionhearted. Dreaming
no match for the waking flame. We fell asleep smelling smoke,
placed damp towels on all the sills. Now the ground is frozen

and in the dream, distance evaporates. I say every word
held back, bold in touch too, lengthening in spirit. The mountains
shadow the rust of the cold day breaking and we hum with energy. Winter
keeps us lucky, rested, like suns.

Are you an eagle yet?
Serpents, they say, can’t keep
lies from breaking their tongues. In the dream I resist

your silence protects me
from my own. One touch to eradicate all sense except, anodic,
what you know you control.

On a day like this, mottled gray-blue with threats
of yellow, I watercolor
until hunger overtakes. I might write but words don’t feel brave enough.

Do you draw upon waking? Do you first spike a coffee or
rinse dreams from your skin with wet heat? I dare not ask. I make. I make messes
I delight in. I draw, too,

darken my small hands with charcoal, blow its fine dust
off the paper, use up chamois after chamois
deepening shadows, black as lust. Or ink. Sleek

lines improvised across the cotton rag. Why can’t this work
make me not want you
drawn over me, a dream in mad fragments, impossible. Midwinter

the day feels frozen electric, transforming minute by minute
into a graveyard for night and dreams.
I could want you or hate that want. I heat

last night’s plate just as light snakes in. I add lemon to cool
water in a faceted glass. Set it down heavy, ringing the wood.

My sister would tell me
I need to stay focused. I do.

I am writing this in the creeping dawnstrokes, having made my list
and folded the white paper into crude fourths. I have to manage.

Foolish, I know, to try

so many times after spectacular failure. But I refuse to
fight the urge to rise from my low
camouflage, letting hunger quicken the hunter in me,
shattering pretense. I make a show, don’t I, blushed

and modest even as I etch your departing silhouette in gold.





A wasp on the stone poolside    for a monument

Branches beam full green
Bebel sings                       A falling star is here        & with us
Guitar in Portuguese lace

A cracked bone stitches itself a soft whitened scar
over and over, caixa wires &

Breath culled beneath cuica, timbal
H as in haunt as in haul
                H as sound in flight

Across the definition of blue a dozen rave in disappearing patterns—
A sparrow         a sparrow         a sparrow




Khadijah Queen is the author of five books, most recently I’m So Fine: A List of Famous Men & What I Had On (YesYes Books 2017). Her verse play Non-Sequitur (Litmus Press) won the Leslie Scalapino Award for Innovative Women’s Performance Writing, which included a staged production at Theaterlab NYC in 2015. Individual works appear in Fence, Tin House, Poetry, jubilat, American Poetry Review and widely elsewhere. She is an assistant professor of creative writing at University of Colorado, Boulder.