Poetry: Two Poems by Duncan Slagle
Duncan Slagle pins his body to these poems, without seeking right or wrong—everything turns on the body. From the beautiful ghazal, to the simple couplets, Slagle shows a range of both voice and technique, with a consistent painful imagery threading through, chasing god.
Ghazal with My Hands Folded, Waiting
Unless the sliding glass door opened, I could not turn
to run from knuckles crowded by my name, taking turns
with my brother & I hiding. We grew a shared head turning
against the lessons of blood & its boiling, into nights turned
back towards the first ripped symptom of my memory. To turn
without seeing, to touch without softening. I spoke out of turn.
I apologize for the spilled glass in my sleep while I turn.
I don’t have methods for unlearning this. The same way I can’t turn
over & offer my stomach up to a bedroom’s darkness lest it turns
out he’s waiting behind the door, the name he offered (me) to turn
in my uniform & bruise unsightly so that no one could see. Of course
we hurt to remember. This captures the hurt. In the mirror, my face turns
into my father’s & remains there, stuck in the glass. Like flies,
our memory gasps awake in the middle of the night & turns
up dead by morning. Of course we remember the hurt. There is
nothing time could do for me I wouldn’t do for myself. By turn
I flicker between ache & longing for his voice despite its tone.
I look at a clock & feel nothing—no urge to touch, no urge to turn.
There is a god for every felt
emotion. Sitting in the heat
of your skull. There is a god
dedicated to your sorrow, to
your swelling in the nighttime.
My back pressed to your chest.
Doorways built to face the other
godly hands tearing into our frames.
The poem is a man on fire, running
through me, burnt until it smells like
your hair. There is a god for poems
like this. Blurs the edges of knowing
& lust. Grief & the posture I take
you into my mouth so we don’t
have to speak anymore, no more
pretending like we’re bodies who
pray, like you are the only god who
could ever fill me enough to stop from running.
Duncan Slagle is a queer poet and performer. He currently attends the University of Wisconsin-Madison through the First Wave Scholarship. His poems appear or are forthcoming in Drunk in a Midnight Choir, Up the Staircase Quarterly & Tinderbox Poetry Journal. He loves birds.