J River Helms
[you’ve got an important ghost now]
yielding is for cowards, they say. our
only hope is thinking less. we know
underneath the brick is more brick. let’s
vacate this reality for another, somewhere
ethereal — somewhere our body doesn’t
grate itself. out the window is a new
oblivion. i tell them our fears will always
tamper with our dreams, become sentient.
anonymity is a gift we no longer enjoy.
negotiate the river again, if you want, but
immortality rarely makes itself available.
maintenance isn’t the best we can do.
possibilities proliferate if we disappear
our deepest soundless aches. memories
rupture. each discomfort doesn’t have to
tether to our being, yet we struggle to
avoid this so much it feels inevitable.
nighttime is for the brave & we are
terrified. a hand on our heart, another on our
gut, we make another pact with ourself.
hours elapse. darkness departs. our skin
ossifies, then loosens again. how many
sabotages are we willing to endure? what
tactic haven’t we tried? what are we but a
naked assemblage, our names blended,
our skeletons shared? they said we burst the
world again. can’t remember who struck first.
[depressive goblin nightmare boy]
dead don’t stay in the river forever:
eventually the bank recedes &
perhaps their bodies join the dirt —
reaching for something always
even though nothing lasts.
some skins aren’t permanent.
so many lose at least one set of teeth.
if bones break then so do we.
vault me into the galaxy if my heart stops,
even if my eyes are still open.
geography is a thing we’ll never not have.
oaths are breakable, but not meaningless.
birds sing our dreams, remind me of your
lilt, the way you sound in my sleep.
in the beginning, we took our meals
naked, slept in trees. hard to be human:
nothing is knowable really. nothing’s real.
if you admit the sky has a limit then
grief certainly follows. turn your
heart into a flame. metaphors aren’t
totally useless. it’s how we make
meaning, how we keep surviving
an otherwise impossible existence.
read the signs again. be gentle with the
edges of our frames. i have wandered
before & i will wander again. i will take
our bodies before the sea & pray.
you are welcome to join me if you want.
J River Helms is a nonbinary queer person from the South. Their work has appeared in Copper Nickel, DIAGRAM, Fairy Tale Review, New England Review, Redivider, and Sonora Review, among others. Machines Like Us, their first collection of poetry, was published in 2016. J lives in Brattleboro, VT.