I am not entirely convinced that Roxane Gay is a single entity. I intend to find out at the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival, where she will sit for panels and interviews on both Saturday and Sunday, March 22 and 23
Fear of weakness
A holy man holds holly plants aloft,
so wholly bent on kissing every saint.
Though he mis-thought (it’s mistletoe he wanted),
my haunted face will dip beneath the branches,
masquerading as each missing martyr.
Watch me barter for his hijacked heart.
What wasn’t there was never mine to lose.
(Empty: the promise. Empty: the noose.)
When he pressed the depression at my throat,
he was not cruel. I was not forced.
Like me, the tree’s worst weakness is its hollow.
I always do regret tonight tomorrow.
Love of radical deviation
The way change sounds you think there’ll always be more of it; jingling cacophony for the bus ride, for the Laundromat, reinventing itself the way change does—hands empty one moment and the next, windfall. You’d think all change happens that way: a misinterpreted conversation and suddenly you’re in Rhode Island, two days later, four hundred miles and gas money you didn’t have, your last quarter plinking into the steel eyeslit of a vibrating bed the likes of which you’ve only seen in movies, highway high-beams bursting two by two in the window like searchlights, working alchemy on your parasol of cigarette chain-smoke so the whole damn room shines like a steel ceiling. The way change happens you’d think the air always looked like this, like furious fog hiding the highest peaks of a bridge inside her coat, but a breeze shivers through the room and now everything’s different, and you’re younger than you remembered and Rhode Island is perfect, perfect. The conversation was not misinterpreted, you see that now, it was a dozen conversations plaited together to keep them tidy and smaller than they were. You left because you wanted to. There was nowhere to go, but here: the extraordinary thing about the horizon is that it is everywhere.
Fear of failure
Derailed, your vantage point is not of stairs
you’ll scale, but stars you can’t. Wrong turns advance
no grace and no divine. Anywhere
you land feels falsely fine. When you commence,
each errand’s a half-empty glass to sip
your water from, to sip your wine. You start
a dialogue with never done, a trip,
a wire, a current to defibrillate
your half-stopped heart. Breathing uncaught. Unfailed,
you delve. Another devil is de-veiled.
A doppelgänger born with every task:
the evil twin of its unfinishing.
The harbor, never there, is menacing.
Its ebb, unanswered question asked and asked.
Jessica Piazza is the author of two poetry collections: Interrobang (Red Hen Press, 2013) and This is not a sky (Black Lawrence Press, 2014). Born and raised in Brooklyn, she’s currently a PhD candidate in English Literature and Creative Writing at USC. A co-founder of Bat City Review and Gold Line Press, she’s now a contributing editor at The Offending Adam.3