Five Ways of Becoming an Unknown City
Do you remember when we sat in that room, full of someone else’s used things? You handed me a black button-down and said, “Try it on.” It fit.
I floated around, a satellite. I said, “Thank you.” I said, “Let’s dance now, all of us.”
I look out my window—top floor—and lean into Brooklyn.
The concrete, the brick, the people, the cars—all of this
moves like glass shattering, a landscape
scattered for the finding.
I am a building,
a hollowed heart, an awful poet, a terrible cook,
a toppling tree, a hungry human, a nomad—
always dreaming of a steady something, walking
into a bloom of hardened love,
a spinning Earth.
An angel spins in the desert, far from us, and I ask you
to bring me back to this place of skull and bloom.
A rocket launch, a shooting star, the way body
spins into an inevitable translucency—
is there a difference?
Last night I dreamt of a movie: I was watching it, and you were an actor. They gave you hair extensions, and I could tell where your real hair ended but it didn’t matter, you were beautiful as always, illuminated by the grocery store light.
You were older than you looked by 100 years. That’s how time worked in the movie: Like magic, like pain.
In another scene, there was a great earthquake, and you were young then—a baby—and the camera was steady, calm.
The night was deep, dark, shaking.
You left the Island covered in my stories, wrote them all over your body. I’m sorry, I have to go, you said. You were nothing but words, butterflying onto that train. I couldn’t stop you. I tried.
I remember falling, tumbling like a bird shot down. And when I reached the bottom, finally, I wondered why there weren’t more holes in the sky. I woke up to rain sliding down window, like the way your fingertips had moved down my spine, the palm of your hand on my lower back. You have the back of someone who is too worn, you said.
Once you told me that everything you felt was bigger than the sky.
Once I kissed your hands and left all those words.
Once I found comfort in waiting.
Once I trusted you when you said, I want to know you when you grow old. Because you believed I would.
Once I felt myself fill like a city blooming with orchids, with skyscrapers. With metal, with root.
To become an unmapped place is to lose promises, is to unravel.
Ashley Inguanta is the author of For the Woman Alone (Ampersand, 2014) and The Way Home (Dancing Girl, 2013). Her fiction, poetry and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Adrienne: A Poetry Journal of Queer Women, OCHO, The Good Men Project, SmokeLong Quarterly, PANK, Wigleaf, Gone Lawn, Pindeldyboz, Elephant Journal, Breadcrumb Scabs, and Sweet: A Literary Confection, among other journals. Ashley’s stories have appeared in the anthologies Love Magick (Armory New Media, 2014), edited by Francesca Lia Block, and Stripped (lulu.com, 2011), edited by Nicole Monaghan.
Photo by Lauren Laveria / Lauren Rita Photography
This poem is not previously published.