Watch me catch fire with both hands

He was a glass of spume salty as the Caribbean in June and I worshipped him as the Summer    Summer knows burning’s the only way out so several times a year  we took turns  being Summer   We stoked each other lithe as wildfires On some nights I was clever                                          enough to spread across his back On other nights I was clever   on all fours pretending to be an altar

There is a science to going up  in flames  Or
an art  Or denial  Like the morning after I gave him love        and with it he built     fire                We watched it neon singe-browed pretending to be gods slip  ping                                     tiny blades           back and forth         with our tongues

Whenever I start to miss him I remember the mess        The mess we left    behind   The mess    after a roman candle             r o  m   a    n   c a n  d l e s          A body              ’s rejection of its own                     has always terrified me              We are people                         of the body Christlike       in only that way                         People of blood    and salt       and bile              The salt left after the hogs have trampled the lilies and the pollen stains everything left                     the center of a peach after the pit is coerced from its dignity the shaping of beef into discs and the Sazón and blood underneath your nails once the discs are seasoned

things that sound alike are not                        alike     a body arched no         not arched    slungover vetiver       A body not slung          or slug but more accurately split    no  not exactly slit into or splat out of but but t e r f l o w n        Allow me to address the devil There is so much I must tell you       not want           must  I don’t like pretty Pretty is decorative Doesn’t ask enough of an audience              Less of a reader Such unnecessary ornamentation is not a challenge and I am unwilling to give into that
Pretty is     a hand inside of me
of why i’ll end up red as wanting steady as I stuck my fingers between
the fingers of his crisp and he taught me this is what rape feels like.

Roberto F. Santiago

Roberto F. Santiago received his MFA from Rutgers University, and BA from Sarah Lawrence College. He is a 2016 Community of Writers Fellow, 2015 Sarah Lawrence Fellow, 2014 Lambda Literary Fellow, the recipient of the Alfred C. Carey Poetry Prize, and his debut book of poetry was a finalist for the 2016 Lambda Literary Award for Poetry. Roberto writes and produces his own music, and likens himself to Tennessee Williams in a poodle skirt, Gloria Anzaldúa in culottes, and/or James Merrill in short-shorts. Currently, he works as an educator in San Francisco and lives in Oakland with a fiction writer and 15 year old cat that edits most of his poetry…whether he asks her to, or not.

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