A List of Waters

— Bryce Emley

after Tyree Daye

The truth is I’m sick / of my blood /
how I must be in some way the man /
who would teach a husband’s power /
is the sound of crashing / in his
throat / we’re water’s second try at the


                            We get our turn at being young
              becoming the people we love
                                                              because we have to

hold our fathers like storms inside us

                                          Break our mothers open
              just to be here       asking


When I talk about men           I always mean my father

who couldn’t help           wearing his skin like an ethos

whose love takes the shape           of its container

who can’t remember           holding his wife

by the throat           like a bouquet of waterlilies


I learned from my mother / to object
to nothing / a wife is an anchor’s
chain / a marriage is what keeps you /


When I talk about fathers
I always mean river.
Or it’s the other way around.
We know them
how we read the earth
where water has been.


Father, who only knew to love
              poorly, I’ve loved worse,

likeness with no weight
              to ripple the surface,

as if even neglect
              were a form of intimacy,

like faith: not felt,
              just a longing to feel.


The truth is any truth / is just a version

The truth is a son / is a dry basin

Is it wrong to love a man / for what he’s made

If not love / know

If not love / rend

If not love / river

If not love

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