Joanna C. Valente
I’m Tired of Men Telling Me They’re Afraid I’m Going to Write about Them
It isn’t a dream
when you wake up with snakes
writhing over you
your body like a garden
a bed of leaves and ivy so twisted and overgrown
and full of dirt, dry and barren
that you are woken up again
a genderless creature.
An owlbeast asks,
Where is Saint Jerome? Where is aunt Tristan?
Where is your master? Where is your master’s voice?
Your sister told you not to do dumb shit. So you don’t.
In another waking dream where you are in another
body and in another, a vampire bat grins
like a divine joke
and you are aware of all of your holes
and bleeding too much and the man next to you
ashamed of this blood, won’t touch you
and you imagine him as a woman
and yourself as something past
and Ursula, fat and brackish, called you
beautiful. Called you a beautiful magic man.
She whispers something into a clam
and something transforms, maybe you
You are the manic dream pixie girl.
You are the tear in a parrot’s eye no one sees.
You are the scrap of bread you’ve always
You are the embarrassment when people see
all the boxes and stuff inside your parents’
Say you love me, though. Ursula, you beg, please.
Learn the alphabet again, for me.
When he kicks the door to your car in so hard, you can’t get out,
your body freezes
like a 10,000-year-old Satan and all the old gods are going out of style
like a leather daddy who hasn’t showered
it’s easy to want all the old worlds that never existed;
reality is only so real as how we make it.
When mother told me never to date
myself, never to date a mustache daddy
I rebelled until I could
until I prayed to be illegal, to be everything illegal, to stop being too much of everything, to stop everything being illegal.
The Second Wife
You are in a room with a man
who used to love you. You tell him you aren’t
He asks if he can still call you
a she, if he can still say
you’re his wife.
An eagle sways, wind & children
running like paper flimsy
with laughter to keep up with it,
it unknowing, formless, a paper
body above brick and grass
and there you are and there she is
and why do I recognize
you as someone else, with
In gym class, all the girls
and all the boys shout, smear
the queer. They throw
balls at other kids like you.
It’s the time and place, you later
Boats block the horizon like clouds
and you forget what city
you’re in and if it makes
any difference at all
when every city and every horizon
is the same
and every desire for that line
at the horizon is the same:
to join our bodies forever, that fear
we will lose the line, our bodies
and instead our spirits
will be lost forever. We call it
selfish, but really, it’s just
human, the most human
we could ever be. Being human
with someone else
sometimes scares you
but you want to try and try
and try and try until there is nothing
left of you, until the other you
is inside you like a neverending
You think of the times you went
to Cape Cod together.
You think of all the times
you almost drowned
and each time, a seal pup
Her underwear is where
your lube used to be.
When you realized neither
of you could protect each other,
you emptied your bedroom
drawers. You made a list
of a life you still want
but with another name.
You are another name. There is
another horizon and it scares
you but you go to it anyway,
fall in the river, no rocks
Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York. They are the author of Sirs & Madams, The Gods Are Dead, Marys of the Sea, Sexting Ghosts, Xenos, No(body), and is the editor ofA Shadow Map: Writing by Survivors of Sexual Assault. They received their MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Joanna is the founder of Yes Poetry and the senior managing editor for Luna Luna Magazine. Joanna also leads workshops at Brooklyn Poets. joannavalente.com / Twitter: @joannasaid / IG: joannacvalente / FB: joannacvalente