Second Person

by Stephanie Pushaw

2014 Poetry Contest Winner


We should measure moments
in handfuls of grace,
keep our heavy fingers laced.

From the tops of buildings we should greet the light
and look at night to the sky for the comfort of dead things,
stars the light left long ago, and say
I know the things about you that you won’t admit you know.

All the yous you could be in earlier drafts
have settled and shaken and I guess now at last
there’s just one. Hollow-boned and high,

with a syrup of sadness in your stepladdered throat.
You’re the light at the top of the well.
The graffiti in heaven, the gardens in hell,

and I’ll shed this body like a snakeskin when I’ve used it up.
I’m waiting for the sirens to crack the sky apart,
for Atlantis to gain traction in my heart:
huge and dark and full of terrifying things.
I want to feel the buoyancy of wings,

to wake up beaked and feathered,
tongues tied, arms together.
You are the warp of light on the horizon as an island’s being born.
You are the still air after avalanche.
You are the branch from which the other branches bloom.
You are the eventual glorious death of the sun,
the first footprint on the moon,
The silent watcher all these eyes are dedicated to.

I’ll unhook my ribs for you,
shake the things inside me free,
I’ll dissolve like a pill in wine, an antidote, a remedy.

For every forward step, a staggering back;
a ship of white for every sea of black.
I want to know everything about you and all of it now.
I want to have written the book where you wake up happy every day
and never say Oh nothing when I ask about the song stuck in your head,
the laces of your shoes all misaligned and double-knotted,
the dull subsistence of your tread.

You are the softness of dawn,
you are the lines in the sidewalk I avoid putting pressure on.
You are the reason people climb Everest: “because it’s there.”
You are the problem to which we rarely dare give names.
You are the silent blame of going to church hungover,
the ecstasy of a low trumpet at dusk,
the husk of something beautiful’s cocoon,
a highball at high noon.

You are the perpetual impure thoughts,
the racking sadness, the transfiguration, the taste of loss.
I want to harness your electricity and hang it from the stars,
the faces in cars, the single well-whiskey drinkers at bars.
I want the gold from your strange alchemy.
I think I’ve got fireflies where my caution should be.
For every city there will be a lake, and a mistake
for every small redemptive thing.
I want to be the bruise along your shin,
the thin wire of light that filters in
along the windowsill: that invisible, that vital, and that still.
don’t see him much anymore.

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