Back to Issue Forty-Five

Around the Sun


I’ve got a year sober—
still I’m seeing things.
Stars where stars
shouldn’t be.

On an island
with my mother in June.
We walked, swam,
cooked. I snuck out

for cigarettes. Fresh air.
More honest than ever.
I even took a shot at God:
The only holy house

on the island, beside
a lake the color of burlap,
getting lighter and lighter.
When I went in,

I didn’t kneel. The priest
took my shoulders
in his hands. Smiled,
gin and cologne. Called

me son. He didn’t see
the stars anyway,
little constellations
all over the earth.

Later I showed up
at the bottle return
with a sedan-full
of aluminum and glass.

Got in line to be redeemed
a nickel at a time. Home,
My mother asked
how many cans

there were after all.
She didn’t deserve
to have an addict
for a husband,

for a son. I gave her
thirteen dollars
and sixty-five cents.
My anger, senseless,

cruel. I said,
you do the math.
There were no fish
in the lake

when my father died,
drunk and high.
Mom kept saying,
god dammit,

what a waste.
There were only
stars on the water,
stars from the sky.


Through the Glass Darkly



When I told you what my father did to himself,
you didn’t say sorry. That was all right, good even.

Instead I made the skin against your ribs
go taut, while you closed your eyes.

You fingered the dark spot on my hip.
Said some people believe birthmarks show

how you died in a past life. The smattering
of small dots on your back like buckshot. Men

were laying prone on the lawn drinking water.
They could only guess what we were doing inside.

Something tender in the way we tear each other apart.
There’s a part of myself that I’m trying to understand.

Maybe it’s simple. Most things are. My father
wanted to die, so he did. We both want risk,

and then oblivion. We give it to each other
and watch through the mirror in the other room.

I ran the sulphur out of the faucet before
filling you your glass. The morning sky here

so open it’s like an ocean hanging inches from your face.
When we showed each other the things we’d done

to ourselves we laid silent. I’m starting to get it.
Most days they’re just facts, and sometimes facts

are only sad and true. We’ve left each other under
so many skies now. You touched the scar in my face

and then my hip again. Said the spot looked like
an entire continent, or maybe the state of Tennessee.

Kelan Nee is a poet, educator, and carpenter from Boston, Massachusetts. He holds an MFA from Washington University in St. Louis, and is currently a PhD student at the University of Houston. He is the winner of the 2023 Vassar Miller Prize for his manuscript Felling which is forthcoming from University of North Texas Press in 2024. His poems appear in POETRY, The Missouri Review, The Yale Review, and elsewhere.

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