It Hurts at First

Two new poems from Megan Fernandes, with an illustration by Forsyth Harmon.
Self Portrait, Forsyth Harmon, 2024.

Men of Rome

Walking home from a club at a squat where we danced, barefoot,
you pointed out a horse statue so muscular, it dwarfed the man
atop its saddle. At the park in front of us, graves of poets who
met watery ends, and ruins everywhere, lit theatrically, crumbling.
You love to tell the story of how the city is trying to build a new
subway line and keeps running into history, priceless antiques
buried in the mud, urns and carved art, so much civilization in the soil.
I get sad when you tell me about the lions, starved by ancient folk,
to motivate the cats to make snacks of gladiator arms, and you joke
about my bad empathy that falls to every creature but people.
We chat like siblings, like lovers, like lost boys. On the plane,
you cannot shut up. We give a reading at a high school and you recite
a Polish poet and the young men swoon. Wish you were gay, I say
to you when you tell me you might be a father soon. At night,
I watch a video about the Roman empire and report back
the next day. I say, did you know that the word proletariat means
nothing to lose but your offspring? What luxury to have nothing to lose
but your/selves. You grin and multiply. The arches collapse.

It Hurts At First

Whenever I think I have become too smart
for something, it roars back. To outgrow,
in early thinking, meant to outstrip or exceed,
to leave behind, a liberty. Humans outgrow
(and so do sheep) the tyrannies of weather,
parents, some superego terror governing
from on high. A poet once said in a modern
declaration that what she loved when she
was young, what she would not disavow
in front of clergymen or enemy, what was
constant despite power or her own shyness,
she would always love. A brave-faced child
who insists the ugly is not ugly, who sees shame
as merely a place to park and not part
of the body. A prophet-child. Once, looking
for a sign from the universe, I saw Fran Lebowitz
on the subway and mouthed I love you to her
as I got off my stop and the doors closed.
I swear, she raised her brows and I giggled, girlish,
brazen with a small edict, barely audible,
facing almost no consequences at all. My loves
are private games until they are not games.
Until a spilling occurs. A thousand small storms
at the threshold of my skin. A seam emerges
and breaks. No seamstress rushes to mend.
There’s nothing to mend. Out, I come. ♦

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