POEM OF THE WEEK: Paige Lewis
DIORAMA OF OUR NEED TO ESCAPE THE COLD WE MAKE
X steadies my balance on the outer wall of the zoo.
He says that even in their sleep, captive giraffes know
they’re captive—they don’t make that midnight hum
in the wild. He wants to connect these stemmy-necked
leopards to my crooning, but it’s only noon. X reaches
up, pokes his finger through the sun, and spirals it into
an apple’s dizzy peel. Now red. Now waxy. He
ribbons it through his lips. See, he says. His singed
mouth. We’ve grown so big. It’s time we got out of here.
I don’t want out, but I do grow cold, and the cold
comes strong—and the dark. The streetlights
are stubborn here—they decide when to light,
it will not be decided for them. The humming
swells so loud I can only focus on everything X is not.
He is not me from the future—his pockets aren’t
filled with space dust. He is not God—he still needs
my help unsnagging his hair from jacket zippers.
Where are we going? X rips a hole into the side
of the wall. He squeezes my hand, leading me
in through the hollow and out beside a mountain,
which has only us to confide in, I am very thin and
not fit to hold you. We climb it anyway. The mountain
teeters and falls back, flattening the town below it. X
calls it An Exceptional Wreck. He feeds flint to a hawk
and sends it sparking over the fields. I don’t
understand his bigness, or his dreamy definition
of guilt, and I don’t argue. I used up my toothiness
years ago—rendered myself kind. And besides, he’s
teaching me confinement. How to feel the fences.
When X pulls me toward the fire, he pulls me by my wrist.
Paige Lewis is the author of the chapbook Reasons to Wake You (Tupelo Press, 2018). Their poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry, American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, The Georgia Review, Best New Poets 2017, and elsewhere.