gentle, now

I have slowly and sadly fallen in love

with this mystery, this hollow self

gently punctured and bled out, gaping.

tuck your fingers into my painted palms, I know

I burn too hot/sandy, but I would clasp you

in this fiery ring. this is our disaster.

I have destroyed you, beautifully.

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lithotine

arms draw out

in black, which soaks up light safely

and leaves bright contrast in limestone

I rock, smoothing the surfaces across each other until

perfect.

A touch of acid and gum, the image fizzles

washed away carborundum

resin dust could give you cancer. So could asphaltum.

but etched in stone is family.

Landscape With a Blur of Conquerors by Richard Siken

“To have a thought, there must be an object—
the field is empty, sloshed with gold, a hayfield thick
with sunshine. There must be an object so land
a man there, solid on his feet, on solid ground, in
a field fully flooded, enough light to see him clearly,

the light on his skin and bouncing off his skin.
He’s easy to desire since there’s not much to him,
vague and smeary in his ochers, in his umbers,
burning in the open field. Forget about his insides,
his plumbing and his furnaces, put a thing in his hand

and be done with it. No one wants to know what’s
in his head. It should be enough. To make something
beautiful should be enough. It isn’t. It should be.
The smear of his head—I paint it out, I paint it in
again. I ask it what it wants. I want to be a cornerstone,

says the head. Let’s kill something. Land a man in a
landscape and he’ll try to conquer it. Make him
handsome and you’re a fascist, make him ugly and
you’re saying nothing new. The conqueror suits up
and takes the field, his horse already painted in

beneath him. What do you do with a man like that?
While you are deciding, more men ride in. The hand
sings weapon. The mind says tool. The body swerves
in the service of the mind, which is evidence of
the mind but not actual proof. More conquerors.

They swarm the field and their painted flags unfurl.
Crown yourself with leaves and stake your claim
before something smears up the paint. I turned away
from darkness to see daylight, to see what would
happen. What happened? What does a man want?

Power. The men spread, the thought extends. I paint
them out, I paint them in again. A blur of forces.
Why take more than we need? Because we can.
Deep footprint, it leaves a hole. You’d break your
heart to make it bigger, so why not crack your skull

when the mind swells. A thought bigger than your
own head. Try it. Seriously. Cover more ground.
I thought of myself as a city and I licked my lips.
I thought of myself as a nation and I wrung my hands,
I put a thing in your hand. Will you defend yourself?

From me, I mean. Let’s kill something. The mind
moves forward, the paint layers up: glop glop and
shellac. I shovel the color into our faces, I shovel our
faces into our faces. They look like me. I move them
around. I prefer to blame others, it’s easier. King me.”

art teacher

I want to scrape together your shatters and remould them,

working my fingers through your cracks, the places

love has been torn away from, your insecurities

burned away in the kiln of my hands. (fire of angels, fill me)

I will use my nails to scratch off the gluey false security,

let it wash away in the water, leaving paint.

You are beautiful, creative, and capable

let me help you see that.