Josef Lemoine
February 2021
IMGP1914.jpg

Josef Lemoine is a Filipino-American writer living in Southern California with his wife, son, and daughter. In a past life, he was part of the 2010 and 2011 CSULB Slam Poetry Teams. He and his teammates were Region 15 Champions who competed in the 2010 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational in Boston. His poetry, nonfiction, and fiction can be found online.

BROTHER

 

On the morning you left home something moth-like shivered 

from my ribs and tattooed your name with invisible 

 

ink in alleys, halls, on fire escape rails. With Cracker Jack

glasses I could read your signature on a frosted

 

flake and it always led back to that fifth-story 

rooftop where you reached toward planes with yardstick

 

fingers and made them vanish in your fist. I thought

nothing of you baring your neck to battleship

 

storm clouds and daring the lightning to snipe

from their hulls for I imagined Sirens 

 

sewing shut their throats for you and cemeteries

singing the moment you skipped by

 

about the time you freed all the carnival goldfish,

tore open the seams of your popcorn-filled 

 

vest, how jets reappeared

when you waved to me.

WOMAN

 

Woman, I told you I sweat ‘cause I’ve got 

lava running through my veins while 

the others have cherry Kool-Aid.

 

I told you the grease that slicks

my nose and cheekbones makes 

me smoother and sweeter

than melted chocolate.

 

I told you I slouch like a chimp

‘cause this sequoia couldn’t see 

your daisy without bending 

its trunk through the clouds.

 

My bony elbows 

are ball-peen hammers

 

my jagged teeth 

have ripped the throats of jaguars

 

and my hairline recedes 

because I asked it to.

 

I’ve told you my Adam’s apple sticks 

out on a branch and you can play 

my ribs like a xylophone ‘cause I am Eden––

the garden and the snake. Remember 

those woods between my thighs?

 

And we giggle and toy with the rainbow 

wax paper that crinkles between us

until you reach for the corners to yank 

it away and see all I’ve yet to tell you

 

that beneath the folded arms

and bushy eyebrows 

 

I am a busted toilet at the racetrack.

 

I am a thirteen-car pile-up on a moonless 

night with a baby bleeding 

in a Volkswagon

 

and I am a cosmic cannonball

of fire and ice colliding with Times 

Square at rush hour.

 

And I said what I said

‘cause I’ve got chicken wings

flapping under my shoulder 

blades and yellow marbles

bouncing in my ball bag

 

and I don’t know that I could watch 

you go

 

for inside my chest is a saber-tooth 

tabby clawing at my pores, howling 

like a ghost, dreaming nothing 

more than to taste your breath

 

but he’ll dance circles on your lap

and slobber on your chin, his butt 

wagging across your face in tick-tocks

 

and I’ve smacked him and kicked him

and whooped him and prodded him

but around you, I can’t get him to sit

 

so every evening before I step 

through your door I douse him 

with Nyquil, drown him in Scotch

and make him watch YouTube till 

he turns into stone

 

then my veins freeze over and my tear 

ducts swell shut until I can watch 

you smile without flinching

until I can press against you

without turning to slush.

 

And you say I don’t see you

you say I don’t hear you

but, Woman, when you blink

your lashes still sing like a cello

 

when you walk the stars rumba 

to the congas of your hips

 

and when you whisper I hear the war 

cries of empresses and queens with fists 

in their spread-eagle hearts

 

and I leave your side nightly, my bones 

trembling from keeping it in. I return

to my studio to drop to my knees

and slice open my belly 

just to breathe.

 

And you’re right: goats will turn 

to doves before you see me cry

 

but in each of my words, if you hold 

them to the light, you’ll find 

them cut from the clearest 

crystal and filling each one

are my orphaned 

tears.