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2 Poems

Ariana Reines


Other credible persons saw the same light.
—John Winthrop, 1638

A couple weeks after Hurricane Sandy
I found myself on my knees sobbing

Before an image of the Black Virgin
Of Czestochowa, known in Haiti

As Erzulie Dantor. This image had been
Given to me by a gay priest I’d met

A short while before, one long
Pleasant night we spent talking & blowing

Meth, during a special period
In my life. My heart had recently cracked

Open. Fear had departed me. I felt
My middling capacities and medium

Looks beginning to become penetrated
By drops of what I had always wanted

But still, even today, cannot name.
What I am trying to tell you is I found

Myself crying sincere tears because I wanted
Someone and because I now, suddenly

(It was 2012) had a home. I seldom
Had had one, and those moments

When I want someone badly enough
To weep and to do anything under the sun

To make that person mine remain, it must
Be admitted, rare.

Can you take
Seriously one at once so arch and so

Strange, so frank and yet so withholding?
I’ll wager that you can.

And/but I am trying
To escape from the problem

Of being taken seriously. And I am trying to run
Away from ugly pictures of me. And I am in flight

From the burden of my homeless mother, which
Flight is married to my desire not to overthink

How much I too extract from this ground
And from the ones who have loved me

Whose love I have failed to reciprocate
Adequately, even though I told myself I was

Lonely, and that I needed it, the affection
And the fucking, even the briefest of thoughts

If I wasn’t going to disappear entirely
Like some forgotten, minor god

The thoughts that think the mind
In which they revolve are produced

By the landscape through which we move
I was pursued by pigeons and doves with rings

Around their necks. I was pursued by dead
Then living then immaterial birds

I was beset by a capacity to see life
And death as a range of colors, and that

The colors of death, purple and variegations
Of writhing humus and white and black

Like the black and white that will fill the world if you
Press gently but insistently on your eyeballs

Were simply deathly colors describing varieties
Of living and that there was in fact no such thing as death

And when I dove down below it, taking the form
Of an insect, and when I lay supine like a bug relaxing

In the sun to describe what I had seen
And how truth and falsehood were weirdly married

To the spilled milk splattered across the heavens
And in the basis of our turning cells

I also saw how though more loosely now than perhaps
Before the net that would trap me inside my life

Still hung over me, over it, over us, over me
And my naked formless life itself

As it had in the earlier years
When I bled for weeks on end, when I never slept

When I allowed vicious things to be done to me
And when I in fact wished for them and invited them

I saw how I was held by the reflection
In the screen of my computer when it was in

The off position and I saw what my phone
Saw of my face as rocks of sorrow and confusion

Were born in my cheeks to bloom and die there
Leaving serrated proof that the invisible

World was real
But why am I trying to talk to you now

In this of all media
Not because I have seen things no one can explain

And for which no lineage
Credentialed me

Not because I wished to pass
Out of the world and managed to

Or because I wished to pass
Back into it and was clemently received

Not because I know anything
Though I might know something

Or even because I am burning
With desire to make myself known to you

At last, in the secret place I have prepared
For us


I was in a bar in Albuquerque
I was going to have to sleep with somebody
I was going to have to choose between two men
It wasn’t going to work with both of them
This blue-eyed man was very drunk
On leave from the army, big German
Bones in his face, he was telling me about his sex
Career. I didn’t particularly want him
There were however things I wanted him
To tell me. He’d been at Mount Sinjar
After the massacres there. He wanted
To tell me about his marriage. I’m impotent
Now, he said, but I have chemicals (he was
An army chemist but he was referring
To Cialis which he said he preferred
To Viagra), and having never
Yet fucked a geezer on pills I wasn’t
Totally uncurious how it all might
Go down. But this other
Man was supposed to be showing up any minute
On his motorcycle who was the hottest
Person in town I’d been able to find with my phone
I’d been living in a trailer on my friend’s land
I had taken refuge with the lesbians
And their dogs. I had been dealing with a creep.
I had hardly seen a man
In going on two months. I just had to know if they
Were still there. Things had gotten to that point. Through
Great confusion must we make
Our way. A rare people practicing their ancient
Religion had recently
Been massacred by the Islamic State
On the mountain that was sacred to them.
This man had been there.
But I’d grown too drunk to engage
Him any further. It would have meant
Going to his room. I didn’t want to.
I went with the other man, the one
I wanted, who didn’t know anything
About what I wanted to know
I’d seen the iridescence
On the surface of spilled oil. I’d seen
Rainbows. Until the fan spread
Across my vision I had mistaken
Peacocks for decoration
Were they secretly Quetzalcoatl
The phoenix, guardians at the gates
Of Eden, were the gates of Eden
Depicted in the amber gates
That partly enclosed the many
Eyes in their tails, were they
Allegories for the heavenly
Panopticon or answers
To the feminine yearning to feel seen
And what about their ugly voices
Shameless horniness, and the legend
They copulate as follows:
The male weeps
The female licks his tears

Ariana Reines is the author of four poetry collections and the Obie-winning play "Telephone." She has created performances and art projects for the Whitney Museum, Works+Process at the Guggenheim, Stuart Shave / Modern Art, and more, and has taught poetry at many institutions, including Columbia, Yale, NYU, and UC Berkeley, where she was the Holloway poet. Recently a Macdowell Fellow, a Dora Maar Fellow, and a poet in residence at the T.S. Eliot House, she performs frequently around the world. Her new collection, A Sand Book, is now available from Tin House Books.