Themis and the Front-runner Approach the Gates

Affirmation is the prize—I see you
burning for it. The sweat-stained neckline
of a cashmere sweater is neither a beginning
or ending—the point is, too close,

some pairings are damned to ripple.
One of us knows it’s not shameful
to flinch. The river said. In one version
I’m blindfolded & your voice is a flood

that swells every throat, so I follow
like a heartbreak when you promise the way
to higher ground. I clutch a tarnished
brass scale balanced with affirmations

& smoke, the delicate joints of its shoulders
shifting in a flick of wind. The most sacred part
of my spine bends towards navel, heavy
with the wings of too many frost-shocked

wasps, bodies long gone—this is to say
I also obsess dangerously over the most
beautiful part of a wrecked thing. You say
I should fear the gates. Look how tall

they are now that we’re closer. But what if
in this version we encourage each other
to watch the sky instead? We could slice
this light into segments & last

for days on it—I could drop this sword
I never wanted to use, double-edged
like your words, pointed towards the already-
severed earth. Soften. In this version

I can see. No comfort here. Your blistered
feet, familiar syntax—but I’m learning
to refuse mimicry. Go ahead. Did you know
I also hold my breath when two people begin

to dance? The tall grass bows to you. Come
closer. I want to tell you we’ve shared cities
without knowing. You turn away & I’m torn
between lifting a match to the edges

of your desires or insecurities. I turn & you
singe the ends of my hair. Enemies say fire
when they cannot articulate what they need—
but what if we aren’t enemies? A match

struck on a tooth won’t take. You’re afraid
your world will tarnish like unpolished silver,
that the cat you love will bring back another
squirrel, dead & soaked, shrouded in rain

& puncture wounds. I think we’re all
most afraid of the people we trust to the bone,
which is to say: I don’t want you to stop
being a flood. Take everything except

this scale & the spells that flare on my
tongue. My body can bend into a bridge—
who do you love enough? Come closer
so I can tell you: even blindfolded

I’ll still look up—



Jenny Boychuk’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Best New Poets 2016, Salt Hill, The Pinch, Prairie Fire, Room, Birdfeast, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from the University of Michigan Helen Zell Writers’ Program, where she is currently a Zell Fellow.


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