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