“Breathe: Agent Orange” at Shine Journal

This was first published as the winning poem in the 2010 Shine Journal Poetry Contest. Winning this contest also secured me a Pushcart nomination that year, for which I’m eternally grateful and will continue to brag about as long as possible.

Because the Shine Journal website was minimally functional last time I checked, I include the poem here for archival purposes:

Breathe: Agent Orange
Winner of The Shine Journal 2010 Poetry Contest plus Pushcart nomination

What you see is not him.
Soon he’ll be born,
hungry like new insects
and full of tangent youth.
His eyes that are not eyes
but spunsilk pockets
deeper than truth,
carry you in them
without comfort.
They are wondrous and dark,
warmer than his lungs,
which are chipped and stripped
and crumbling, two broken promises—
fiberless and musty,
like logs that unfurl
the dirt-thirsty gills of mushrooms
from their flanks.

As a child, I sought cicada-husks
on pine trees in the park,
the split back and empty legs a mystery
more perfect than a deep breath.

The body’s misunderstandings
are so weighty,
to leave behind a thing
so light.