Place[meant] is a recurring series that explores identity beyond the geopolitical and physical parameters that have come to define our sense of place. From a train in Queens to the cuff of a bodily spell, the poems in this series navigate place as both material terrain and residual traces of one’s memory. Place[meant] delves into how migration, diaspora, borders, technologies of power and control, biopolitics, and historical violence shape our identities, the powers of which are anything but benign.


Arborvitae

 

Damp days draw blood
red cedar roots out
from dark soil.

Arborvitae arteries trip,
stick out. Slick
river swallows mud.

Spit slushes out the mouth.
In the gloom of wet loam,
gleaming, ever-reddening roots

drink from everywhere.
Water silts stone’s skin—
move on, move on.

Its pulse plies quiet from mind.
You crouched on drowning ground,
clutched a blade the color of sun’s blindfold.

You slit across your wrist,
found your winter limb still rich,
red even in its season of evergreen sleep.

Then you dreamed a patient,
open sea, a revering river
dissolving scaffold after flow.

You came to. A clinic stitched over
your incision, your decision.
Recoil, record, move on.

You met red cedars before
you met me. For years, winter
was over, ocean’s secret safe.

We used to go to the coast.
We’d fight. Our tracks clashed,
cut seamless shore

in two. Now you yearn. You
think I rose like some summer
spark and lit the swilled sky dry.

Your need is settled fog in the valley.
Again, you can’t see your own hand,
nor ramus, reaching root, hidden sun.

If not darkness, the vapor here
obscures red lines winding.
Have you forgotten?

The ocean told you fog,
sea, even you eventually
ascend.

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