Yerra Sugarman The Teacher For a finger’s width of love, I’d hold my hand out to her like a beggar in the world outside the sterile ward. Blades sharpening in my belly, my hunger ended the day I heard curses swell—shit, help, fuck— from the hospital’s corked room. A whitewashed cauldron. For years, to let her poems enter me, I’d devour my own skin the way some insects eat their wings. Desire would candle me whenever she called me friend. In poetry class, she was the teacher. Even my name prayed to her voice and its cool red dust. But wreckage was a promise I knew we would keep. In lockdown, there were no shoes, no pens, no cell phones, just the white bread of days I found calming: plastic forks and knives; pills dispensed in paper cups. The city and its mouth of broken teeth, still indifferent and bruised as when I’d left them. But, locked in, I was free of her, sirens shearing off the surface of night.
Locked in, I was free of her, sirens shearing off the surface of night, and her hands that held poetry in them the way the earth holds water. When she’d speak, I’d be happy. Her words’ wooded smell lifted me. I was dazzled even by the light rain falling in her praise, and traced her mind with my finger, erasing myself, a self who knew love as a fragile house, ruin cradled in it, although its rubble made me sing.
Crab Orchard Review