Joanna C. Valente – When You Ask Me How I Am and I Almost Tell You, I Haven’t Killed Myself Yet

Joanna C. Valente

When You Ask Me How I Am and I Almost Tell You, I Haven’t Killed Myself Yet

Another outside
my body

over it all steam
and half suns, full moons
huddled together

to transform our bodies
into a single

solar eclipse, tiny invisibilities
settling somewhere above the ocean
rebellious waves learning

speech, vowels like ours
and we call it semantic

                          and this is how the ocean
started to pray, singing waves
             and for a second I

feel that desperate need to open
             my fingers
             and stuff the ocean inside my
legs and mouth

                                       preserve through
a spell to take my body

                          instead, all these people
                                       blowing smoke
                          cramming themselves
             inside the ocean, the waves,

and these bones we know
                          will be taken by men
             and made into an office building,
automated waste
                          leveraged into contractual efficiency
                          but we can’t have that
             not with the night pooling like blood
                          around us,

and we are stopping in closed bookstores
             saying thank you

                                       before news of the dead

our own dead, our future

                                       find us, haunt us

                          under a paper sky with another moon
                                       we don’t recognize

I tell you it’s hard for me to reconcile

                          our moons, some alien stardust

             a space we remember but can’t see
                                       and these waves not being

             waves anymore but what use is there
                                                    to mourn what hasn’t happened yet
                                       and all the words like thank you
                                                    that will happen in between
             that will be the only thing to matter
                          when the waves stop crashing.


Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York. They are the author of Sirs & Madams, The Gods Are Dead, Marys of the Sea, Sexting Ghosts,  Xenos, No(body) (forthcoming, Madhouse Press, 2019), and is the editor of A Shadow Map: Writing by Survivors of Sexual Assault. They received their MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Joanna is the founder of Yes Poetry and the senior managing editor for Luna Luna Magazine. Some of their writing has appeared in The Rumpus, Them, Brooklyn Magazine, BUST, and elsewhere. Joanna also leads workshops at Brooklyn Poets. / Twitter: @joannasaid / IG: joannacvalente / FB: joannacvalente

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