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18

By Lauren K. Alleyne

Here is the night snarled with stars, here is the smile
full of teeth. Here is the bloom of desire, its scent swift
entering everything. Here are the arms, the legs, the heady
nectar of lips; here is nipple erupting against the thicketed
chest. Here is earlobe and thigh, the sharp seduction of nails.
Here is naked. Here, light by an exploring moon. Here is heat
making a new planet of your heart, riding your blood like victory.
Here is the old road you have longed and longed to travel,
18. It hisses your name. Its breath is smoke and salt; it stings
your throat like a scream. Here is the trembling gate, and yet
you want to turn back, no, run back, to before, which is still now,
or could be, if you turn in time and you do, but here are the knots
fists make of fingers, the silence one tongue can shackle to another,
the willful iron of belly and bone. Here is no, and no, and no
answer. Here, shove and bite splinter like so much kindling.
Here is his laughter sparking mad— jackal, wildebeest, wolf.
Here is fire and fire and fire. Skins of flame. Walls of flame.
There is no turning here, 18. Here you learn how to burn.

Added: Monday, June 30, 2014  /  Used by permission.
Lauren K. Alleyne
Photo by Rachel Eliza Griffiths.

Lauren K. Alleyne is the author of Difficult Fruit (Peepal Tree Press, 2014). Alleyne’s fiction, non-fiction, interviews, and poetry have been widely published in journals and anthologies such as Women’s Studies Quarterly, Guernica, The Caribbean Writer, Black Arts Quarterly, The Cimarron Review, Crab Orchard Review, Gathering Ground, and Growing Up Girl, among others. Her work has earned several honors and awards, most recently the Picador Guest Professorship in Literature at the University of Leipzig, Germany, a 2014 Iowa Arts Council Fellowship, and first place in the 2016 Split This Rock Poetry Contest. She is a Cave Canem graduate, and is originally from Trinidad and Tobago. Alleyne is currently the assistant director of the Furious Flower Poetry Center, and an associate professor of English at James Madison University.

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