“sometimes your hand is all you have”

Standard

Ode to Masturbation
-Ocean Vuong
because you
were never holy
only beautiful
enough
to be found
with a hook

in your mouth
water shook
like sparks
as they pulled
you up
& sometimes

your hand
is all you have
to hold
yourself
to this world
because it’s

the sound
not the prayer
that enters
the thunder not
the lightning
that wakes you

in lonely midnight
sheets holy
water smeared
between your thighs
where no man
ever drowned

from too much
thirst & when
is the cumshot not
an articulation
of chewed stars
go ahead—lift

the sugar-
crusted thumb
& teach
the tongue
of unbridled
nourishment.

to be lost in
an image
is to find within it
a door. so close
your eyes
& open reach

down with every rib
humming
the desperation
of unstruck
piano keys
some call this being

human some call this
walking but
you already know
it’s the briefest form
of flight yes even
the saints

remember this
the if under every
utterance
beneath
the breath brimmed
like cherry blossoms

foaming into no one’s
springtime
how often these lines
resemble claw marks
of your brothers
being dragged

away from you
you whose name
not heard
by the ear
but the smallest bones
in the graves you

who ignite the april air
with all your petals’
here here here who
twist through
barbedwired light
despite knowing

how color beckons
decapitation
i reach down
looking for you
in american dirt
in towns with names

like hope
celebration
success & sweet
lips like money
laramie jasper
& sanford towns

whose trees know
the weight of history
can bend their branches
to breaking
lines whose roots burrow
through stones

& hard facts
gathering
the memory of rust
& iron
mandibles
& amethyst yes

touch yourself
like this part
the softest wound’s
unhealable
hunger
after all

the lord cut you
here
to remind us
where he came from
pin this antlered
body back

to earth
cry out
until the dark fluents
each faceless
beast banished
from the ark

as you scrape the salt
off the cunt-cock
& call it
daylight
don’t
be afraid

to be this
illuminated
to be so bright
& empty
the bullets pass
right through

you
thinking
they have reached
the sky
as you press
your hand

to a blood-warm
body
like a word
being nailed
to its meaning
& lives

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