Before the buffering & the dropped phone calls & the oppressive August heat. before our car pulled in the
lot & a bird shot out of the sky & everything meant something & i thought i knew unfiltered happiness.
before my mother got in her accident & my father cheated on her with the cashier from the corner store.
before my neighbors found out. before i knew what a hood was. before my first cell phone and gay kiss.
before i knew what truth meant — & more importantly– what it didn’t. before my father died, & my
mother, & my sister, & my interest in the color pink & world affairs. before we smoked weed over the
school vents, set up imaginary jump ropes for oncoming traffic. before the desire was legible from the
Georgia mountains. before the pigeons hunted at dawn. before tepid silence at dinner. before black bodies
were bodies & i was less mean. before we skipped rocks. before my beard heckled the sidewalk. before i
learned ju-jitsu and karate. before i dreamed i knew martial arts. Before i got my ass kicked for the first
time on the corner of fulton and clark when Jacob, the big kid from the class above mine, said i stole his
firetruck toy. before i ever stole. before i was scared of heights & my heart and carrots. before the
zoetrope spun & the boats burned & the scenic route is compromised by pirates and big red sharks. before
i toiled in disaster. before a hurricane found me, huddled in a boxcar. before the lighthouse grew dim.
before i skipped class. before we expressed our feelings. before the war. before the palace eclipsing the
clouds. before biting into the peach on the prariebed. before false teeth. before the breasted sparrows &
the bushels of wheat. before the flags on top of government buildings. before summer haze. before the
coach says back to the basics & we all line up. before we learn weary fight weary & we deserve to grow
old! the trees, too; the katydids circling the moss. before practice, the boys & i have breakfast on the
moon. heaven got hospital food; meat like meat. before my last night of the year, leaving some frat house
& slipping in a snow-covered crater, opening my eyes like a late blooming rose on the cusp of december.
before olive nights, before stars in paradise, before i longed to be
THE LIGHT IS a place where i can re-use drugs & there are pillows under my head in the bed of my
cell where there’s no jail where my name spoken under the muzzle of a gun inspires laughter not fear
where the bears can use the grocery store as they please & where my sister (dusting nestled dirt off her
knees) holds me for the first time since i was five the light loud as it is audacious as it is where there’s a
fire in my mouth where i cough & we all turn to ash where we build new worlds! riding rafts down the
sink drain on a summer morning Oh little-us! oh vengeful us where is the salt under your lip. where is
the filament where does the sinkhole begin In the light i jump out of a baby’s mouth i want to be
born again like salt on the cracked road Tires ripped & torn to shreds car soaring over the river
bright light in my eyes turning everything white for days my eyes clear up & now a tall man in the desert
stands over me holding a can of gasoline crumpled i offer myself to him, tongue out i wish i knew
more about planes & about love the whistling in my ears the real silence The light, the light,
bright slate, yet nothing yet wedding bells / rings / cigarette halos / billowing over the creek
God arriving like he always does: a hug, warm hands,
. all the nowalive platoon behind him, grinning
i said i was getting used to this living thing, you know?
i think it’s colder here than anywhere else we’ve ever been
Kevin Latimer is an artist. His poems can be found in Ninth Letter, jubilat, Poetry Northwest, Passages North, & elsewhere. His plays have been produced by convergence-continuum. He co-organizes GRIEVELAND, a poetry project. He has won scholarships, fellowships, & awards from The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland State University, and elsewhere. He is the author of ZOETROPE (2020) & SOUP (2023). He lives in Cleveland, Ohio