I Say Ice
disappointment. I say universe
and cosmos and I say earthbound
and stasis. My tongue smashes
its way into calamity and my lips
split over virgin or bourbon.
I say ice with this mouth
that’s already melting: abscesses
and spices in the sores.
Salts. I say salts and the crystals
clip the sloughy skin behind
my traitor lips. I say ascension
and this mouth hardly believes it.
These things I say are prayers
and pleas and please until they
answer themselves unanswered.
I say lies and lies. I whistle
sometimes but am stuck saying
when the whistle doesn’t work.
Sure I’ll click and moan with this
mouth but I say ice and transgress
too with this mouth and I say
flight and I will rise. I set goals
with this mouth and soon
I say more lies. I say
my surrender. I say ice
with this mouth as if to explain.
I say earthbound and stasis.
I say disappointment.
Age of Reason
is to trust light, another is to trust shadow.
One way of seeing a Bradford pear
is in full spring bloom, another is in early winter,
the warm day that coaxes bud before frost.
Each nest used to be needles.
Though the greengrocer stocks celery
under his awning, the evening news reveals
our cities to be mass graves.
The next messiah is coming,
or he arrived in some distant fire & perished.
Ross White is the author of Charm Offensive, winner of the 2019 Sexton Prize, and two chapbooks. He is the director of Bull City Press, an independent publisher of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, and the editor of Four Way Review. He teaches creative writing and grammar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is the associate director of The Frost Place Conference on Poetry. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, New England Review, Poetry Daily, Tin House, and The Southern Review, among others. Follow him on Twitter: @rosswhite.