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With What Eyes


In Virginia I was graceless, a child matted head
to toe with language

Scratched it in my inverse book above the valley
Vexed my burnt-end tulip-stalk

against the page.      Did I believe then—
who may name him?—

Was the burnt flower of my tongue
good      Enough to ripple down the hills?

To what eyes was my girl-body hieroglyph
my boy-body kindling?

In Virginia’s lungs was I called smoke, what tulip
curling in the cinders’ public house—

was I called red, called flaming?      In the wide heart
of the valley what faith read me, lampblack:

Who may name him?—       The neighbor-boys
roar faggot—With what eyes and      Without

burning      Who can see their god?



Even before boy-beautiful, you child
skipping unsexed on eggshells, yellow ghost.
Rock down blue and gentle in its crucible
ply the false constellation

of your sex.
In the act you play intercessor, still

between the man and a still
smaller woman, still nearer to a child.
However much you ask I cannot look at you in sex,
its glaucous hush. We shuttle ghosts

between us, stitch up the constellations
brush the ash out from the crucible.

For our bodies rendered mute within the crucible
stitches and their sexes burning, still—
for limbs incensed, in revolt, in constellation—
may knit new, autonomous sex.

For any woman at night is a ghost
for anything alone, a child.


Post-propofol, still        out of it, half-ghost
and giddy, gasping as a child    at de novo constellations:

your body’s anti-crucible
                                  ex nihilo, your sex.



We didn’t stay on that white mountain
          not once winter cut its bright blue line into the birch.

Each night we denied the hot gun-metal
          answered muzzle with the valley, lifted our unbroken bowl.

I was your little brother there, your sister
          paper that I was. In the birch copse you cradled

the bullets of your silence in your side for me.

Was it      gentle was it boyhood’s soft
          stone on the lake-bottom, warping? Did you too wear yourself

smooth? Fawn-child with fawn-child
          threading charcoal needles in the snow

against your family’s country:
          speckled and unkilled      in its white gorge.

The road was littered with us those days
          vital, that we open.


Leyla Çolpan is a poet, translator, and CREaTE Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh, where hir poetry was awarded the Academy of American Poets Undergraduate Poetry Prize. Hir current work centers the Turkish-American diaspora, bilingualism, Sufism, and queer spirituality. Ze appears recently in Homology Lit and Recenter Press Poetry Journal, and on You can follow hir on Twitter @leylacolpan.

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