After Slip by Sina Queyras
An owl made me think of
calling you, so I dialled each
number in his book until
I reached yours. The first thing
you say is this may
take a long time. I hope it does.
I’m desperate to share this with you.
Let’s be peaks, pine trees, magpies.
We can wait for each other to change slowly over centuries.
We’ll collect every copper coin, every silver needle,
that the other leaves behind. We’ll sew
pillows with the tamarind and jasmine
that arrive, tacit and silken, between snowfalls.
I know I’ve not yet loved you enough,
but how can we be in two beds
of feather and straw?
We should be lying in your bed eating moon jelly,
should be dying in one another’s arms,
should be folding into each other like
nodding mushrooms, watching the
light turn apricot and morning glory
unfold its silk. One-night stands don’t
linger for weeks. Pears for teeth,
they’ll leave no lasting teeth marks
on our necks. Paramours fizz like
pop rocks and liquesce to nothing on
our tongues. Wait until we’re face to face—
you’ll see how our sweat, tears, longing,
are for each other. I could put winged
things in your shoes, fly you to the
palm of my hand. You, powdery and
trembling, a moth rustling from oak
leaves. I, too, shiver. We keep one eye
each on the back door, knowing it can
always be kicked in. Sometimes we
can’t tell what is a door, a closet.
Those are no reasons to shun entrances.
There is a pause so lengthy on the line
I can hear a crow calling over the hollow.
Hours stretch themselves to days,
but I haven’t the energy to hang up.
Your earlier words now pearling,
I fall in love with you once more.
I can see where I want us to
go and I dread the receiver’s
click. How can we survive this
untransformed? Silence is a
door that swings open wide
the heart. If I were brave,
I would beg you to leap through.
It should be enough, though,
if each time you sit a little
closer to the threshold,
and let me fall asleep to
the possibilities of you.
Questions and Answers
A couple of years ago, I read one of Sina Queyras’ early books of poetry, Slip. That book, as I read it, concerns an affair between a professor and a student and details the profoundly destabilizing effect that the affair has on the speaker’s long-term relationship with their partner. The flirtation with the paramour seemed so much more fresh and vibrant to me than the rather staid description of the long-term relationship, though the affair does not ultimately prevail. Nevertheless, the book seemed to offer a rather dispiriting view of long-term relationships. I wanted to write a poem that, in contrast, was about the vibrancy particular to committed and persistent loves. In my response, “Grip,” there is an affair but it is barely mentioned, because all the speaker gained from it is a realization of how much more significant their partner is, and how much richer a long and deep connection is than a passing fling. I hoped that “Grip” would be both a response to Slip, as well as a poem that can be read in its own right without the necessity of understanding the reference. However, in case a potential reader is interesting in understanding the original, I chose to note the source of inspiration in the epigraph of my poem.