STEPHEN FOSTER SMITH

Title: A Soft, Private Casualty

Poem: Folding my billowing wings,
I have cocooned myself, again, for the final time.
I suck in my wings and sour at the silken finish.
My vertical grave suspended on bare thread.
My frozen chrysalis locks shut,
aborting the quiescent imprint of an already doomed future.
Once a beautiful winged thing,
I vainly searched for a branch to rest,

vainly searched the capitol of a flower,
nectar sipped, flower stripped, sucked bare.

I danced on air, like chiffon floating, my amber-stained
spotted underbelly straddled petals like men taking land.

Yet soaring under the bonewhite hellstone was
never enough and the majesty could not sustain me.

So do not watch me make my final flight into the dawn,
into the day that will unfold like the arms of a crocus.

Away from the ivory eye of night,
with my dreams as moth-eaten touchstones.

My imago coffin tastes air for the final time,
pummeled with earth until it is unknown.

Please take my lasting gesture—
a heart song dipped in fire.
Title: Bisecting Mother Vena

Poem: We sit gilded in the heart of a cosmic prelude.
Cremated tongues lick our dark.
Our faces shimmer ephemeral,
dimming and stammering through
incantations we trusted would save us
from that dreaded fissure
like our haloed bond that failed
to keep us from those brittle ashes
sullying the dark and dusting
our bodies as you cradle me.

You think of me as shrine
yet men of guard force white into my jaws
once they know
I share faces with
the selfsame.
They gunnysack my limbs and clutch their hearts,
waiting on god words that boom like gong chimes.

They take my neck shaft,
split it back and blossom
the spoiled fruit of a bright disfigured mind,
a body depraved and bloodstained,
weary from simple prayers
and ruby brood fire-burned at its root.

Mother,
did your rhapsodic tongue sing sweetly
when such pressure made me dip below seafoam,
choking the swirling throat?

Or did you anticipate the chasm-making?
I told you
this world is an irascible beast
and my body is a carbon bit of two-fold—
a dulcet dream
or a nightmare of suffering,
some shadowy figment only you recognize.

Count it naught but bear the witnesses;
there are two:
in that space where you squat and make generations,
we both tried
to exist and brace one another,
only to find
we are loosed lingering celestial filament
sun-eaten and gapped by corrosive metals
trapped in the spinning centrifugal cauldron core.

Stephen Foster Smith (he/him) is a black, gay writer living in Atlanta, Georgia. As a southern native, he explores themes of identity, spatial inhabitance, historical embodiment, and memory. His work has appeared in Electric Moon Magazine and on Prism & Pen. He enjoys writing creative nonfiction, poetry, and fiction.  

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