Catapult | Poetry

Choose Your Quarantine House (I – IV)

under the dark sitting pretty / on the patch of hardwood floor / where confession / and callousness meet

Catapult magazine · Listen to SA Smythe read this poem

under the dark sitting pretty
on the patch of hardwood floor
where confession
and callousness meet, you
pour gin into someone
else’s morning
a series of slight
disclosures for a chaser

idly humming along to
Prince’s acoustic version
of “Mary Don’t You Weep,”
trying hard not to think
about death—yours or his.
what’s the use? you already know
you’re gonna die in this country you
never managed to live in,
not once. the how doesn’t matter

threads encouragement 
through the screen door
some latino twink you met
once at a houseparty DMs
“thinking of you!” with a kiss
a white woman
you haven’t had a real
conversation with maybe ever,
texts “hoping you’re well,”
and Venmos $40 with emojis
of a martini & two pink hearts:
this is how you know
another black trans person
was killed today

you, in not really a house so much
as a ditch that you’ve been digging
by hand since you were twelve
it’s hard work because it fills back in each year;
the blood from your ragged
nails forge chaste pools for your tiny
resentments and all your love languages
chomping at the bit for an externally
appointed peace, at the memories
of everything you suddenly miss: slow
hands, people watching, people
wanting, being both too big for your
britches and too small to be left alone
it, swapping pure chisme,
disguised as casual interest,
walking near the beach
but never on it, sitting in traffic for an hour
in the parking lot they call the 405
in time to nab the best spot in the corner
of your favorite bar downtown—back
to the wall, always—just to pull out
a book and bury your nose
in it except to ask the bartender
for “the usual”
with a soppy grin

            House #3
oh here we go. it’s you & the relentless retrograde & the sturm und drang & the meyer’s hand soap & the disingenuous moon & rising signs & the sirens & the pack of camels & the refresh button & the group chats with your miserable friends & your when this is over friends & your sometimes it be like that friends & your bread baking through dysphoria at 2am friends & your it must be easy for an introvert friends & your [. . .] then nothing sent in iMessage friends who must also feel the loneliness drive deeper with every notification and so they’re sparing you from that it’s you and the body pillow wrapped up in each other’s bullshit wondering why a black body needs a body pillow when the news says that the black body is as excessive as it is that it can’t feel a thing you just blessed enough to be stressed, highly favored by your anxieties you & the same heartache & sirens & mood disorders & sirens & flames on the horizon & the disinfecting wipes & the same sexual hangups same crick in your neck waking up with your self-same jaw fixed to make that same rictus shriek in the same binder and bathrobe as before all this holding your breath day in and day in and day in and—even the day wouldn’t dare go out at a time like this not with the neighbors peering through their curtains just so not without the cameras on, surely, not while you’re asleep not when the day heard that there was someone or something else at the door taking breaths, straight up breath-taking out there, not while you’re praying to choose which way you go out—you exhale once the cigarette smoke piles up in your lungs and turn to see the greens with the nerve the fucking gall to thrive out on the balcony like that, life breaching the dirt tippling out from the raised beds pressing themselves against and over the balustrades. nothing’s really wrong with that but you’re still so sick of it—        

and the complete
and total
of how hard it’d be
to be a single
even if you
consented to it

weren’t sure
if the sounds
were coming
from the vinyl
or the meager
on your chest
but now there’s
no denying it

and sorrowful Mary
who against
all odds
still knows
how to follow
it’s just you
washing your
hands again
doing all
the weeping