It is possible to not know what lies
underneath your skin.
The smell of gas, a minor accident—
say fuel element failure.
We touch the pieces of dried grass
on our descent, suture
back together a bundle for which
there is no longer a name.
The great misstep, the human element:
defect as our communal birthright.
And how to remember what was
never written? The memo
recommends departure, the memo
suggests trace substances
still in the hold—hold them still
leaking on roofs over tongue.
A stubborn breed: this animal. The
only retribution: unforeseen fire.
We pour our mistakes into black pits,
close the lid, and hope that the
smoke story might not reach the inner
lobes of chain-link & ashtray.
We drink the water, we brush
our teeth with the water,
and force another match into
flame growing dim by the
march of palms. No time to put it
out and no time to waste on
exit music. There is a rumor I
shouldn’t tell you, but I will.
Count your hands by syllables,
divide what’s left by the root.
We are not who we say we are and
the farther we go back, we’re
tracing blood—filling bodies with
this chemical breath, sending out
piecemeal parcels of well-lit verbs.
Jessica Q. Stark a mixed-race, Vietnamese American poet working and living in Durham, North Carolina. She is a doctoral candidate in English at Duke University, where she writes on comics in poetry and curates the Little Corner Poetry Reading Series. Her chapbook, The Liminal Parade, was selected by Dorothea Lasky for Heavy Feather’s Double Take Poetry Prize in 2016. A mini poetry chapbook, “Vasilisa the Wise,” is forthcoming with Ethel in 2018. Her first full-length poetry book, Savage Pageant, is forthcoming with Birds LLC. She writes an ongoing love poem for the Internet in her poetry zine, INNANET.