2017 Award for New Poets: deciduous qween, IV by Matty Layne Glasgow
Selected by Tyehimba Jess as the second runner up for the Award for New Poets, Matty Layne Glasgow’s poem playfully bristles between fragility and loving violence. Simple in conceit, complex in execution, “deciduous qween, IV” is a treat for lovers, for poets—even for saggy-bottomed folks just taking a walk through the local park.
deciduous qween, IV
of a tree or shrub,
relatively broad-leaved, rather than needlelike or scalelike
A boy once called me a beech leaf—
too straight-veined & sharp around
the edges to love, he said. Clearly,
he was no dendrologist. But guapo,
you know. You watched me fall from
a birch tree. Picked me up all torn
& dusty—another fragile dying thing
the world couldn’t hold onto anymore.
My grooves, they aren’t unswerving,
& I’ve never been able to commit
to the curves of my own body, how
stretch marks bloom from my love
handles like sanguine veins ready
for autumn, ready for this flesh to
turn color and fall from my bones.
I’ve got a broad-leaved base. It sags
a little, hangs heavier than in those
twinkish spring days of my youth
when it took less than a stiff breeze
to send me fluttering dizzy-headed
to some new resting place.
We call the broad flat part of a leaf
its blade, or lamina. It cuts through
the wind, rustles with the soft chime
of a knife when blown against other
keen-green & dangling things. The boy
was right about my edge, I’ll give him
that. I’m still a jagged-toothed blade—
the serration of a breadknife that opens
up those soft & most delicate loaves
like a prayer, like every slice is the body
of christ. But I worship carbohydrates,
& the only body I’ve opened with a blade
is my own—flesh so full of yeast & flour
it pulls my skin apart, brings rise to my
leaf-bottomed jeans. How does a toothed
edge shape a body? One sacramental
mouthful at a time. This is my blade
broken for you. Remember me.
My father says I used to have such
a natural smile—pristine white teeth
& cheeks full of something, like joy.
What happened? he asks. I started to wear
my shame like a muzzle, I say, to hide
the shiny edges of my lamina. Maybe
I like to be bound. Maybe I need you
to fold me along my midrib vein, gently
fasten the toothed jaw of this birch leaf
closed. Maybe there’s a dimension
somewhere within me that must be
contained. Let’s call that place truth.
The boy never told me I have a booty like
a thick-ass birch leaf. Others did. I still just
want to do the leafshutter with the evening
breeze, to make every ounce of my round-
bottomed blade shake & jiggle in a whirl-
wind of drums & bass. That’s the truth,
let’s go there. Make me grin & you can see
everything this body has ever been in my
sharp, broken smile. Feel it in the soft
dissonance of white scars, the ones that
spider around just above my waist, webbed
etchings of all the ﬂesh that has come & gone.
Guapo, you aren’t the ﬁrst to touch me, to trace
your ﬁngers through the empty grooves that
bloom from my ribs like ridges of symmetrical
leaf-skin. Maybe you’ll be the last. Unfold me.
Rub me into nothing in your palms. I’m ready
to turn to ash, as long as it’s in your hands.
Matty Layne Glasgow
Matty Layne Glasgow is a queer pixie of a poet and MFA Candidate in Creative Writing & Environment at Iowa State University where he served as the Poetry Editor for Flyway: Journal of Writing & Environment. Matty’s work has appeared or is forthcoming from journals here and there, including BOAAT, The Collagist, Rattle, Muzzle Magazine, Wildness, and elsewhere. He presently reads poetry for The Adroit Journal.