On Wire Walking by t. tran le


even a whale’s death
ruptures the bodied notion
of two ways to be:

a whale fall flowers,
manna in pitch black ocean,
a feast as we speak.

can you imagine,
living the whole of a life,
then, dead and in bloom?


when I remember english     I think of Cousin Jimmy
how he carried cruelty     over his shoulder     a hefty burden
sack of solid stones     english     even
at home     how I learned     loser     is a word    once thrown
returns easily     my sounds matched     to shapes      of my parents’ mouths
and that was it     family songs fell off my shoulders
     and I emerged     American    
in the afternoons     Jimmy used this english     as a leash
our limbs soared over furniture     we made laps around the kitchen
     I thought we were going to the moon    
eventually I grew hungry      everyday he asked me the same question     hands
in front of him his small fingers     pinched imaginary sticks
     do you want a poop popsicle or a pee popsicle?
Cousin Jimmy wore violence like a cape     around his child shoulders 
his voice like a river of fire ants     a warning siren for the end of days
if I refused to play     the lousy game     the house would find itself under
a thick umbrella of clamor     I imagine this was the first time     I was asked
     to choose     between     two things I did not want 


today my therapist is tired of my feelings. 
they ask for my thoughts instead— 

it is essential to disconnect my body 
from the violence of the sea. 

when they say this, I am still rushing 
my optic nerves back to present view— 

sometimes memory is a secret door. 
(a body can be so heavy, how 

can one keep from falling through?)
but since you ask, my thoughts are as follows:

a feral cat shoots across Halsey Street,
there is a slot under a gate, the stray flattens

to press its belly through, the orange phantom
vanishes before my eyes. Where 

do I find myself here, in the quiet 
of this vagabond, in a door left ajar, 

in pliable flesh, or in the silence 
that follows the relief of refuge?


I am singing along to Frank Ocean, easing desire     
out of the cavern of my mouth and the word
     someday     stretches across my tongue
like a hand reaching its palm faces the sky 
as if to say come with me    let sound travel
is this what we call courage faith     in a destination
   a someday     

beyond the other side     of this mattress     
I have left this house two times this month     peeling my body off 
the bed     like a snake splitting its skin     my sheets 
crackle against     their own crispness
saline crystals and snot     
     this is the glamour of today     and I am thinking 
of someday rolling it over     

the backs of my teeth     like hard candy
the kind that cuts your mouth the kind that clack 
like marbles in a jar 

I am think about mouths     I am thinking about my mouth     
the sound of a mouth

how does longing rest in my mouth?

is it like a communion wafer soaked in sacramental wine 
or is does it encase the back molars in epoxy 
thick as caramel  

sugar so sharp     it hits a nerve

Contributor Notes

t. tran le is a poet from Texas. Their work has appeared in The Breakwater Review & 8 Poems. t. lives in Brooklyn with their partner & three cats.