- POETRY -

TWO POEMS

 

Travis Lau

ISSUE ELEVEN | FALL 2018

Joseph

I beg her forgiveness, this kindness cupped
around tinsel trappings and caramel corn,
but I cannot bear the sight of repeated red
strobing against metal.

Know that I have since learned
how humans can be beacons—not
fixed, but moving, pulsing:
even as he took the final of his
missteps into the lashing
of wind and screeching metal
too reluctant to halt, he
was brilliant in his falling.

And free was his fall, but we two are
grounded now, bound to a sighing bed
where only I lay wake-waiting,
hoping to learn his cyborg slang,
a ventilator’s gasping turns of phrase.
But even machines will cease their talking,
only static signals.

Father breaks form and weeps:
for the last of his brothers, he
fills to the brim an earthenware cup
to toast the early arrival of twilights
bearing too many names never
said until they are no longer needed.
The drink slakes one thirst
but ignites another.
A laying on of hands from
one life to another.

Room 34B
After Thom Gunn

I climb into the cot with you,
fearless now as I was then,
because we prospered once
in the dreams of heat now
clinging cold to our skins
wracked with new fears
and raw traces of healing.
Here you are, sullied
with apologies in place
of defense, knowing full
well you owe nothing more
than the covenant we
made years before the
motes of pain made their
home in you. A kiss, a will
to be desired, limb and feeling,
even as you brace against the chill
contours of presences making
themselves known to you
slowly in the grip of potential.
Feel instead the hold
of my care, of what little
these hands may do with the
touch you have learned to fear,
even as you carry it into a sleep
without break.

Travis Chi Wing Lau recently completed his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania Department of English and will be a postdoctoral teaching fellow at the University of Texas at Austin beginning in Fall 2018. His research interests include 18th- and 19th-century British literature, the history of medicine, and disability studies. His academic writing has been published in Journal of Homosexuality, Romantic Circles, Digital Defoe, and English Language Notes. His creative writing has appeared in Wordgathering, Assaracus, The New Engagement, The Deaf Poets Society, Up the Staircase Quarterly, and QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology.

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