Poetry: Jay Besemer

the star

the star is in the stone              hidden in layers of matter
a question brought to mineral lips       with a change of light
or movement               how a ghost shifts in the flesh
comes to shimmer over skin                you can feel this but
it can’t be spoken         when your body does something
recognized in another body      you are in the tender fissure
dreaming that body around yours         from the inside if
inside is a word you use           maybe condensing it on your
flesh                  the way water beads on a glass            on a
hot day

the star is in the stone               & the ghosts that come with
experience      always teach you to hold them close     or to
let them hold you

i don’t believe anything is off-limits

i don’t believe anything is off-limits                 if wonder increases
while the life shakes off its body

the old leaf                  the shredded jacket crumpled in the fist
a bandage torn from the night

peering within your lantern that cluster of moths you call your

you don’t give up the ghost exactly      you just visit someone
else      invited for tea & cakes

the tenderness of your hand                  always stroking my hair


they do not expect me to be kind         professional strangers holding
notes to whom i am the one who isn’t there                  unfathomably
until my kindness is a bell that rings somewhere inside them   & i
change shape                like a lycanthrope in the dawn all paw & maw
of dirt

i’m uncalled-for            but i’m what came        & that’s a story they
won’t know the full mouth of                because the blood in them
hopes for a different statement & won’t accept the kiss that illegibility
brings               to a life & a body

what happens to a one become another           unrecognized by the
screen inside the mind             made into a deeper cut than was known
before              if love was in their hands at all            it is not there now
whether i am kind or terrible                 like the killing ice


the hinge          in the heart                   stretches           grows
rain moves over the body         with the wind’s unrolling spindle

observe the grass          slowly standing           released from snow
the hinge in its thin body opens

love      says the grass    bends us          & we are new

& who could argue otherwise

in fragile life

the silence & the bone              where mouth opens in a wall
or a window happens to place a body around itself      how
we wake into being      not knowing why

& walk to the rushing creek     to be in wonder at the force
of change         lay a hand on broken wood       heart of a
dying tree         & is change god          whisper             the tree
gives no words

two mergansers

& the ghost you bring inside beside you          looking at one
another           strange flesh mirror       united in your love
oddness & the mud

fingers sticking with pine sap               his lips

the narcissus is sprouting & it is silent              but it shakes the
sternum             so much power in fragile life

how to rescue a sapling

hold the living wood                 bent under       hold its
small girth        curved              crown trapped             the
near body fallen           dying                 pins it to the ground
tug & press       lean like a mariner leans           into his taut
line      back against the slim trunk        arms stretched out
along it            throw your body back               to show your
trust     say       here we go        the trunk bends & branches
hiss in leaves    dance against the wood body              again
crown emerges             break a rotted branch               push
on the yes         leap back & let go

                                     —free tree—


the muscles of the clock           pound against the tree
& the light dreamed in slices over the sky       in cut-
outs of trapezius shadow on the ground           in steps
beneath a gauze of frost          steps of secret dances

spy at the window         greenhouse-shed growing more
sky       asks questions in clock-math                 wondering
who nests in the laden tree        & why night hurts more
hurts like a drum making horses on the soles of the feet

are we together            in this room                  watching
are we together            with our faces so close my beard
tickles your evanescent chin                 death is something
different                         not a bird to tell you i am waiting

besemerJay Besemer is the author of numerous books and chapbooks, most recently The Ways of the Monster (forthcoming, KIN(D)/The Operating System 2018). He was a finalist for the 2017 Publishing Triangle Award for Trans and Gender-Variant Literature. Jay tweets frequently @divinetailor and sometimes does things on Tumblr: jaybesemer.tumblr.com. He lives in Chicago.