Cathexis Northwest Press
Perennial; This is why I return so rarely
By: Patrick Schiefen
Joseph called me out for the chrysanthemum petals plucked onto the floor
but I swore they were wilting before I even touched them.
I couldn’t admit to him, though, that I needed to destroy something beautiful –
something that dared to be so even in its dying.
Thirty minutes dormant on my secondhand sofa
& all I did was wish to undo the damage.
It’s Sundays like this that I feel the most removed from God / from a god / from my body.
Joseph asks me every now & then to point to where it hurts
but I can only ever sit next to him in the silence of the anti-words for suffering.
He then goes outside & walks around the block to ‘clear his head.’
I wish to undo the damage.
Night drops onto my head like a silver thaw
& I’m still not sure what kind of weekend it is.
Chrysanthemums die in winters like this
but grow again from the roots that lie beneath the frozen ground.
Joseph returns & tells me what he’s been thinking:
You’re gonna be ok, Monkey. You’re gonna be ok.
This is why I return so rarely
I become a violence trapped twisting into an almost-body,
stretching my barbed limbs toward empty skies
so blue their emptiness goes unnoticed
without my father to point it out.
I can’t remember my given name.
I can’t remember how long
I’ve been grinding sulfur on my mother’s doorstep,
swallowing hard to put out the fires,
wetting my lips when I smile so my siblings can’t tell me I never tried.
Patrick Schiefen is a queer poet/nomad from Upstate New York who, like Dorothy Gale, was caught up in 2020's twister and landed on the island of Koh Phangan, Thailand. His work has been featured in High Shelf Press, Ample Remains, From Whispers to Roars, and A Shanghai Poetry Zine. His first book of poetry, If You Know, You Know, was published in 2019 when he was living in Shanghai, China.
"'Perennial' is a poem that was gentle on me during its creation, despite it addressing a certain lived-in sadness. I believe people, including myself, to be resilient, but we are occasionally faced with pain and heartbreak that are difficult to overcome. "Perennial" is a peek into a moment where the narrator - me but not me - doesn't know where to place his sadness and so it manifests in quietly destructive ways. He isn't without love and support, however, and Joseph's willingness to understand provides a glimmer of hope and healing. The poem came to me during an intense period of my life and, if anything, I hope it reminds others of their own resilience and support systems.
'This is why I return so rarely' centers around family and, yet, it's about the narrator and their experience of returning home. The poem touches upon how we can get sucked into old patterns and regressive relationships, with others and with ourselves. It's interesting to me how a person can love their family while, at the same time, they recognize their sense of self is clearer and unrestrained away from home."