Away; luxbeetle; The Ballerina
By: Lex Kim Bobrow
Across Florida, I hear you
whisper a spell in the dark.
I feed a song to the Everglades,
and the river of grass gurgles like a messenger pigeon.
An ache, a slab of thunder, a glowing
screen—and our thoughts warm each other.
Has there ever been sunshine more coalescent
than ours? Our mind shoots like a shiver
down the intracoastal. A riptide of bees
builds us a hive south of Key West
where our titan thoughts can play,
intertwined and heaving and spilling
out into the Atlantic. Something dead rumbles
from inside the Earth, all our old bodies perhaps,
clamoring for light and the sweet brine
of the holy kisses we invented, longing
for the recipes of spells we use with indiscretion
each life to find each other.
Tender length of vine,
your noble breath blossoms
when you wrap your mind around me.
Paradigms, effervescent, hollow
my obstinate boredom.
Where were you, light,
when I was learning my name?
The shape it took in her
gnashing and hers and hers
I can leave putrefied
to gruel in their mouths,
for I need no name here.
What light bounces
between our mirrormouths?
Which infinities shall we select?
What legends are you made of?
Tangible marble of sun,
how you roll around in my mouth.
Teach me how to arrive
out of peony and snow.
(The beetles march
upstream like monks
with their horns breaching
the gestating sky.
They come for you.
Perhaps you’ll go with them.
When you arrive home
in winter, I will be here,
three-eyed and ravenous,
holding a bowl of poems.)
Predators and beloved both,
we track the roots
grasping for the other,
where we have loved only one
or the other until now.
These terrors are prototypical,
but not paramount.
I do not dream of ownership,
only the little aftermaths
you’ve offered from the beginning.
In their absence, however,
this lie becomes virtuous:
I love you as you love light,
I love you as you love light,
I love you as you love light.
Which is to say, there are cities in me
I must constantly free from myself,
claw-hearted and jugular,
a bloody coup at breakfast,
lunch, and dinner, revolutions
as often as coffee.
The beetles, upon return, luminous
and lumbering as the dogs of war,
sweep the dead from the streets,
set a table: a bowl, a knife, a heart.
You eke out a glimpse of Valhalla
from her jawline or eyes or the orbits
of fingertip tracing your tattoos
in unraveling spools of galaxy and fervor.
You fall in love with every dancer
who sits like a gun on the kitchen counter,
but the ballerina feels like interstellar
light coming out from cloud cover,
a soaking, deep space warmth
you forgot you deserved.
It’s the final dagger
in the germline of that regenerating heart
of yours. Your heart is not a feast.
It’s just a heart, and that’s okay.
There’s a little brine at the bottom
of the hollowed-out apricot
of her mouth. It’s laced with pepper.
(You’re alive, you’re alive.)
Her skyborne lips drop you in new country.
This is not the land you cultivated
so this is not where you run dry.
The ballerina is a fenced garden with a path to a stage
where she offers a wildflower, a hand, a kiss,
a simple remedy you’ve been too oceanic and proud
to understand until now.
You tell a simple story, for once, to the audience gathered.
“An entangled particle spins into a frenzy
and the other spins out of one.
When the first particle heals,
the other loses its footing.
They quickly untangle.”
You refuse a metaphor using Norse mythology
(but on stage, you assume Loki’s posture
for the sake of surefootedness and the comfort
of a beguiling grin). A breeze slams
against your hips, carrying
the scent of her lavender across your body
like high tide. You take a breath.
The name you choose for yourself is new, indelible.
Lex Kim Bobrow is a mixed race Korean writer from South Florida. He is the editor of The Toxicologies Letter (toxicologies.org), aimed at making the internet a little less lonely. His work has been published in Synaesthesia Magazine, Saw Palm, Prairie Margins, and more. His debut chapbook, 'The Boy with a Sledgehammer for a Heart' is available through Finishing Line Press or on Amazon.
Interview with the Poet:
Cathexis Northwest Press:
How long have you been writing poetry?
Lex Kim Bobrow:
I wrote a few really bad poems in high school (it's always horrifying to get tagged on social media when someone unearths our old literary magazine), but I'd say I got serious my junior year of college. So about 8 years now.
Can you remember the first poem you read that made you fall in love with poetry?
It's a bit cliche, but the first poem that I can remember really wowing me was Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night." That poem has such power to it, it's hard to forget. I think that was the first time I realized how much power a poem can have. And then the poem that really made me fall in love with poetry as a craft that I wanted to participate in was John Murillo's "Ode to the Crossfader." I saw him perform it right before I took my first poetry class with him at University of Miami. That was the first time I realized all the different types of power a poem can have. An infinite pool of possibility. Shout out to John. He was the one who really ignited my passion for the craft.
Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems?
Crush by Richard Siken is my favorite book of all time. Transformative. Devastating. Heavenly. I have a line from "A Primer for the Small Weird Loves" tattooed on my arm: "You thought if you handed over your body / he'd do something interesting." But that whole book really helped guide my style. I also adore Pablo Neruda. If I could ever write a love poem half as beautiful and galactic as one of his, I could die happy. "We Together" and "Every Day You Play" are two favorites of mine. Then anything by Maureen Seaton. The most wonderful, magical incarnation of an ancient Earth goddess I've ever had the pleasure of reading and learning from.
Can you share for us a little bit about your writing process? Any specific rituals that get you in
I just sit down and do the thing. That's 90% of it. I don't like to romanticize the process, because it's hard work, and once you accept that it's hard work, you can actually start making beautiful things instead of waiting around for inspiration to strike. One thing that often happens for me is I'll one line will come to me like a bone sticking out of the sand, and I'll write it down in a new Google doc or my notes app. And then when I can, I'll sit down and start working from there, digging out the rest of the body of the poem until it's all unearthed.
How do you decide the form for your poems? Do you start writing with a form in mind, or do you let the poem tell you what it will look like as you go?
I very much go by feeling. There aren't too many areas in life where you can 100% follow your instincts with no consequences, so I like to just go wherever the feeling takes me. Sometimes I'll realize the ideas are starting to organize themselves into, say, couplets, and then I'll see if the rest of the poem can sustain that pattern. I will say that after I graduated college and I was unemployed and depressed and could not write a single line, I would force myself into some sort of formal poem, like a villanelle (which I love and highly recommend trying), or some random meter like iambic trimeter, and that would really help me put at least something on the page.
Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice?
I'm still finding my voice too! It's a forever-process, darling. Read a lot of poets you admire and want to be like. That's the really exciting thing. You get to choose your favorite things from your favorite poets and blend them with who you are! One of the first poems I felt really, really proud of, I wrote with both Crush and Pablo Neruda's Residence on Earth open the entire time. Eventually all that combines with who you are and what you uniquely have to say, and it becomes your unique voice. I published that poem in a chapbook a while back, and an old friend recently contacted me to say that he taught that poem to his high school students. That was a wonderful feeling. You'll get there too. You just have to keep reading and writing!
What is your editing process like?
I do a lot of editing as I go. If I'm not happy with a line or word choice, I usually don't move on. I know that doesn't work for everyone because it can stop your progress, but I'm happy to be a slow writer, and by now I know when I'm spending too long on one little part. I know what the wall feels like, and I'll move on if I hit it. Sometimes I'll finish writing a poem and know that it's not done yet, but it's done for now. There's nothing I can do in my current mindset to improve it. So I'll put it away for a few weeks and then come back with fresh eyes. I almost always know what to do after that.
When do you know that a poem is finished?
I know this isn't helpful, but I just know. I've said what I needed to say in precisely the way I needed to say it. Maybe I'll come back and revise once or twice, but something in me just knows it's time to move on. I've dealt with that specific facet of that emotion; it has completed its journey out of me. If it's bad, maybe I just needed to write a bad poem and get on with my life. If it could be improved, maybe I just don't have the skills yet to make it what it needs to be. And that's okay. I'll get there eventually.