Enjoy access to our current issue! For full access to our entire archive subscribe now


          Lord, make me pure, but not yet! 
.                                  —Saint Augustine 

In those days when I was the academy’s darling 
I borrowed phrases and made no claims, 
digressed gracefully from every absent thesis 
and drank like a poet without a subject 
while lovers wept over my gorgeous body 
of ambiguous work. I told each of them 
that they were the furtive you 
of my sonnets, after kissing prosodically 
beneath the streetlamps. It was true, in a way. 
Tonight, I want to say that I am haunted 
by who I was then, as the stars disappear 
in the diffuse glow of those same streetlamps 
beneath which I am no longer kissed. But that’s a lie. 
I am crueler than memory 
and kissed there often. It feels wrong and honest 
to tell you how sentimental I am 
for those days of numbness that haven’t ended, 
like describing the moon’s veil of clouds 
instead of its face. Tonight, I confess nothing 
moves me except the sound of breaking: 
Listen to our hymnic severance— 
leaving suddenly is my favorite psalm. 
Tonight, I want to tell the truth: 
I’m a fraud and can’t be trusted. I admit nothing 
is sacred to me: She is sleeping on your side of the bed 
with the cat. I want to be gentle but not quite yet; 
there are more books I want to read without kindness, 
more poems I want to go to hell for. The hurt I cause 
is confusing but not complicated. Tonight, 
do not mistake my emptiness for depth—no matter how 
glamorous I appear, smoking on the church steps. 
I want to be forgiven, but I’m not sorry yet; 
if there is more to ruin, there is more to be redeemed for. 


Share —
Published: June 6, 2024