The night purrs! I’m liquored.
Slick with gin and camphor.
Your arm with the left-handed
swastika tattoo, scruff of my neck,
I’m groomed. Dogteeth smile. Now who’s a good
boy. A very good boy. You say
“I had no idea you were so young”;
I misinterpret this as a compliment.
My eighteenth birthday. Your gift—
draped crystal and chain over my nape.
To protect me from all harm
done by others. I did not scan
the emphasis. I dropped my
twenty-sided die; failed fortitude
save against charisma.
In a pawn shop, eight years later,
I get the gift appraised: not crystal
at all. Set in lead and stormglass:
little ampoule of fox urine. A mark—
scentless in the cold of a crowd;
unbearable musk when an older man
got me alone in a warm room.
HOW SHOULD A PERSON BE?
Some things magic cannot fix.
The magician drops the hazel switch,
the dazzling sapphire cape, cuts the shit,
reveals himself to be the speaker of this poem.
The speaker of this poem apologizes
because some people have real problems
and he merely had needs that were not validated.
The speaker of this poem displays
the door to nothingness under his ribcage.
The kind of dark that breathes.
The speaker of the poem admits
that nothing he had tried could ever bar it,
the door— not water-cooler chats; nor mascfag body;
nor art; nor substituted amphetamines;
nor amphibious tears; nor epinephrine; nor poetry;
nor DBT; nor Westvleteren 12, nor “purpose”;
nor strawberry-flavoured dick; nor raw candy. The speaker
of this poem is hollow, so picture the speaker
as a two-pound infant moulting in an incubator
the first six weeks of his life, caressed by needlepoint,
his mother’s hands against a pane of glass. The show is over.
I’m the speaker. Probably why
I cannot feel you when you hold me.
Jake Byrne studies creative writing at Concordia University, where he was the 2016 recipient of the Irving Layton Award for Poetry. In 2015, he volunteered for Lemon Hound as an editorial assistant. His work has appeared on George Murray’s NewPoetry project, and is forthcoming in Lambda Literary's Poetry Spotlight series. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Soliloquies Anthology, and lives in Montreal.