a lesbian ars poetica ~ a poem by Louie Leyson

(Flickr CC, Jocelyn Erskine-Kellie)

Beautiful language is violent. I know this
because it is with such art
that Pedro Chirino, a 17th-century Jesuit,
had once turned me from soft flesh
into solid marble, or that rough trunk

being smoothed down, himself
the pious sculptor with his hammer
and pick in the stone.
I had once thought of poetry
as a drawing of lines in the earth,

the way we had as children
wielding twigs in autumn. A marker,
or a taking. I had thought that,
unlike Chirino, I was being tender.
Now I understand: to write

is not the same as to covet. A poem
is only the earth itself. Here, I echo a tradition
of lesbians who dream themselves
and their lovers as mountains
or poems, lineless. I dreamed

you were a poem, tells Adrienne Rich, a poem
I wanted to show someone. Natalie Diaz, desired
as granite reorganized, a formation—: yet forming.
Audre Lorde, who finds in each lover a valley
carved out by the mouth of rain.

I am writing this down
for you, which is to say
I am growing a landscape
in the likeness of everyone
I have ever loved,

a space that is also an absence
of hammers or picks
in the stone. My tools are my hands
and the moon, without which no water
on earth would move.

I am writing this down for you,
meaning you move me like a poem
I wanted to show someone,
or gravity felt from the glaring silver
of another landscape’s echo.

Louie Leyson is a UBC graduate and writer who lives on the unceded ancestral territory of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. Their work has been nominated for the 2022 Pushcart Prize and 2023 National Magazine Awards. You can find their works in CatapultThe Malahat Review, Palette Poetry, The RuptureNat. Brut, Plenitude, and elsewhere. Their twitter is @aswangpoem, their instagram is @cyborgsaints.


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