Joanna C. Valente

poetry

WATER SPELL

 

        “That part of me isn't here anymore”

                  -Nine Inch Nails

 

Above or below

                        there is no

sound —

 

            just vibration, a humming

 

                        the space between a vulture’s wings

            or a group of bees the shape

 

                                                           of a face you used to have

            before you became another  

 

                        [ there are times

                                     I dream of a voice

                                                             that takes me

           away

                                     into a stone house below the water

 

                        as if I was born inside the house inside

                                   the wa

                                                                         ter

                        and you were there

                                   rib or no rib

                                              a place with no gunshots

                                   just a memory of voice

                                                                                      ]

 

          and then the other version

                                  is about a lake

                                             not a stone house

          where I am a lake

 

                                              with a spell

 

where you live inside

                                      a black furnace —

 

you are the thing

                                      that heats

                                                             it up

          a fire without fire

               speaking another language

          that you’ve forgotten but still remember

 

in dreams where your skin

 

                                    is too hot

                                                to touch

          so you swim until your skin

 

                                                           falls off

 

          and you become

                                                 something else

I can’t see —

 

                       the water has risen

 

          crystals freezing our bodies

 

          above midnight because midnight

 

                                  doesn’t exist here

 

                                   and we aren’t really sure

 

who are the ghosts

                                   and what river is

 

                        the real one

 

                                   because everyone keeps

 

getting lost or killed

 

                                               along the way —


 

             please just leave us, we pray

 

 

 

THERE’S NO HELL

 

        “All love is lost”

                  -Slayer

 

Are you in heaven now?

I lock the door unsure

which of us is the monster —

unsure if this is the version

you died of cancer

or heart attack or stroke

or pills or ghosts

or if this is the version where

you’re still in the dining room

finishing the squash soup

or if you’re still

 

the only goddamn woman

standing

can see right through a moving

train and if this is the version

where I ask you to come

home with me in Brooklyn,

back home

 

and if this is the version

where you say you’ve had too much

to drink to write me

and instead say, I’d fuck your sister

and her boyfriend too

before I dream of a sea

to envelope me, before I drink

bleach to find if hell is where

the driver says

 

sweetheart, wait. I don’t know

if this is the version where you hate

the driver, where you love

yourself. I lock the door

unsure which of us has become

the monster.

 

 

 

A Relationship in Songs

 

 

This is not a dream sequence

darlin'—

 

there will never be another you 

sure of love; everybody's got 

 

to learn sometime how high the moon 

call it fate, call it karma, the shadow

of your smile—

 

lose your smile, would you? 

Wolves still cry.

Your ex-lover is dead. 

The body appears

 

without you. I'll be your mirror

soul on fire, full moon, lust for life.

 

I say a little prayer. 

Everything is illusion

rid of me, black magic, lemon glow—

 

moonlight becomes you, the everlasting

gaze  into dust—eyes without a face 

 

like a prayer

to build a home; my love grows in darkness

night and day. 

 

Everybody's got a home but me. 

I've never been there. Goodbye darling. 

I could be happy, blue angel, but not tonight

 

love will tear us apart; all we ever wanted 

was everything

 

into the black, all the things you are

paint it black.

 

I'll love you more than you'll ever know. 

The sky lit up the hidden river

of my life—

 

someone to watch over me

in the gloaming, vampire again,

 

re: person I knew. Is that all there is,

beauty queen? We've been had—

 

you're fucking

no one. Play the goddamned 

part

Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York. They are the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015), Marys of the Sea (ELJ Publications, 2016) & Xenos (Agape Editions, 2016), and is the editor of A Shadow Map: Writing by Survivors of Sexual Assault (CCM, 2017). They received their MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Joanna is the founder of Yes, Poetry and the managing editor for Civil Coping Mechanisms and Luna Luna Magazine. Some of their writing has appeared in Prelude, BUST, Spork Press, The Feminist Wire, and elsewhere. Joanna also leads workshops at Brooklyn Poets. joannavalente.com / Twitter: @joannasaid / IG: joannacvalente

© 2018 by Azia Archer

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