How to Drown

Poetry / Devin Kelly

I’m weighted & full of words,
          a cloud
                    of vowels
                    soft-sinking toward ground.
                              (No one ever told me it would be like this,
                                        that the past
                              could scream past until
                                                  it inhabits a kind of present, the way
                                                            the word weight
                                                            holds the sound of wait
                                        until what you feel becomes a softened
                                                  mantra binding you to night.)
Each morning I wake
          hushing an ocean
                              back into place, my body shored up
                                                  & sandy, pouring coffee into the faint
          wound of my mouth. Every object
                    contains a story.
                                        Failed love is only
                                        a drunkenness you attempt to stumble
                              out of, without water,
                                                            without the hope
                                                                      of mo(u)rning.
                                        Once, my mother sat me
                                        at the foot of her bed, years after she left
                                                                                my father,
                    to tell me she still loved him.
I touched the faint vein trickling long
          her hand,
                    tried to find whatever yarn
                                        binds two people together. She fed me
                                                  ice cream
                              until I fell asleep on her couch
          & then spent a forever-sickness of years
                              chasing nothing but what she left behind.
I am so wrong for all of this.
                                        The love-quiet
                              of city at night, how each small thing turned
                                                  in the right kind of light can bring me
                              to my knees,
          remind me of a forever I have lost.
                                        If you lead me by leash to the pond
                                                  in the middle of the park,
                                        if you tie a brick
                                                  to my ankle & usher my body
                                                            gently toward water
                                                  as I have seen horses led
—the way supplication
does not have to contain a kind of violence,
the way prayer was invented
to fill the time we would spend
watching others die—
                                        if you weigh me down,
                                                  you will have to wait
          for my body to surrender, for all this
                    givingness, all this gentleness, all this all-of-this
          to bend back
                                                  under the kiss of star & streetlight,
                    to give in,
                              to beg forgiveness,
                                                  & disappear.

Devin Kelly earned his MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and co-hosts the Dead Rabbits Reading Series in New York City. He is the author of the collaborative chapbook with Melissa Smyth, This Cup of Absence (Anchor & Plume) and the books, Blood on Blood (Unknown Press), and In This Quiet Church of Night, I Say Amen (forthcoming, Civil Coping Mechanisms). He has been nominated for both the Pushcart and Best of the Net Prizes. He works as a college advisor in Queens, teaches at the City College of New York, and lives in Harlem.