2018-2019 FINALIST, COG POETRY AWARDS

Age 25

Kai Blevins

                                             

                                    gender is intoxicating.

 

i’ve felt boundless joy

                                                            i’ve watched Man unravel

in its chaotic presence

                                                            searching for approval

in its shifting time pools

                                                            addicted to domination

the refusal to bend

                                                            the violence of self-aggrandizement

in the face of injustice. i’ve seen

                                                            how willing Man is to devastate

tender souls blooming toward

                                                            peace, or any foreign thing

the transcendence of connection

                                                            that does not serve him

that can’t help but serve everyone

like me. i’ve heard him snarl

that sweet, sweet lullaby and

felt him coaxing me to leave

my worries behind me

my consciousness at his feet.

I Don't Know What It's Like to Be a Man Alive

after jamie mortara*

Kai Blevins

                                             

but i do remember

how it feels to be

a man dead

 

the ache of my decay

hushed by the living

men that surrounded me

 

as if i were

growing the right way

 

as if it were normal and expected

that i be willing to lapse into nothingness

rather than linger

in the spaces between

 

it’s not unique just to me

everyone out there

knows what it’s like

to be something

that terrifies them

 

for example: i come from a family

with secrets in our blood

the worst of them wait for generations

before reaching the heart

 

imagine: an emptied

field, felled trees dragged

behind the woodline by men who know

the toil of hiding a smile and a glance

in those moments where the clearing

makes way for new life and yet still

we put our dead shoulder to the wheel

 

imagine: a garden

of boys buried

beneath the fears of their fathers

their tongues unable to distinguish

dirt from history

ashamed of the wildflowers

growing from their chests

eager to sever the stigmas

beat the petals

into blades

 

i got my first pocket knife

when i was 6, learned how

to unzip living things

the way every boy should

 

i remember holding

that smallmouth bass

its guts spilling

over my small hands

jerking in a way i never wanted

my body to know

 

years later i sliced

apples into stars

harvested the seeds and planted them

everywhere                  (our church / cracks in the sidewalk / my body)

 

begged them to birth beginnings

where i only ever saw endings

 

when i was a man dead

i fell in love with endings

tried my best to unzip myself

to find the secret carried for generations

to hold that blood-thick silence

in my hands triumphantly

if only for a moment

 

 

 

 

now imagine: a tree

the early summer wind

plucking apples like dandelion seeds

carrying them to people who are terrified

by their capacity to love

 

for example: my ancestors

* This poem borrows lines from jamie's mortara's poem, "I Don't Know What It's Like to Eat a Man Alive" 

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

Kai Blevins

                                             

doesn’t speak / of the monster for 5 years / hopes he’s been / devoured by silence / the way the

boy has / still gets nauseous / at the thought of being / undone by him / considers all the times /

people said wolf / just didn’t have the teeth for it / never tried to swallow them whole / the way he

did with the boy / who turns out not to be a boy at all / wonders / if that’s what drew the wolf in /

listens as the wolf entertains the town / with wolf-jokes / watches the wolf bare his fangs / while

everyone laughs / harder / sees the wolf / parade through town / wearing an anti-wolf t-shirt /

feels the unbearable weight of everyone’s applause / goes numb / when wolf gets an award / for

being / tough on wolf-crime / takes it all back / thinks maybe / wolf is just a dog after all / figures

that’s why / he’s Man’s best friend.

 
 
 

Queer As In

Kai Blevins

                                             

sometimes i forget the word

contradiction altogether. it’s as if my body

has reached equilibrium for a moment

no longer in need of a word

for something so familiar. i assume

 

this is what it’s like to be at peace

never resisting that desire

to be unsettled by absolutely everything

your imagination can handle. the future

is always one thought away

in the distance it promises

a realization that we are all part

of a greater whole

(or something like that). anyway

 

i assume this is what it’s like to be

a bird drawn to the moon on a cloudless night

only aware of its body in the moments

when unexpected gusts scream

through its feathered wings. still it remains unable

 

to pass through the invisible barriers

that draw life to a close. i wonder

if the atmosphere ever gets lonely

or if it has abandoned language altogether

refusing to be bound by its own attempts

at creation.

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