Timothy Liu

and to dust thou shalt return

The field was finally sown.

The evening fallen.

Perhaps some sweetness in the air.

So he began to read.

His woman in the other room.

Adjacent to his solitude.

Neither in despair nor free to roam.

Caught as yet in the about-to-be.

It would take some time.

The book he held approximating field.

Of course the consequences.

Unseen mouths to feed.

As seasons changed from room to room.

Winter here. Spring over there.

It would take some time.

The woman he held.

Their emptiness already in full bloom.


Had you been so adept through a series of polished hoops?

All of your training amounting to this.

Countless titles and certificates affixed to a wall.

That sort of thing.

Halos you couldn't pass through now.

Working out salvation by the sweat of your furrowed brow.

The shape of your body afflicted with what it is.

What you were becoming all along.

Could regimens really keep the future at bay?

Suffering, death, etc.

All of the usual calamities that kept you employed.

Congress with whomever sought your care.

Now left benighted on pastures where you had once put out.


Who told thee thou wast naked? the story goes.

We had to begin somewhere.

Even in disbelief.

As the veil was rent in infant sleep never having known it.

I can feel it in my bones but I cannot see it.

A mother refusing to give suck.

If not this day if not her voice then even so.

Inhalation. Exhalation.

Was the body only messenger to the message?

This milk will cost you.

You ask the world for bread but are given stone.

Systole. Diastole. A Sisyphian stone.

With all the dead around you now coming into view.

Each with a stone not of their choosing.

Nor of their making.

The eternal journey from heart to mind less than three-feet long.

I relax my shoulders, my shoulders are relaxed.

I relax my liver, my liver is relaxed.

And so on.

With our tailbones anchored to the center of the earth.


An island without roads
is a place where one can't

get to. To find us there

depends. Dig up the roads
that led us here. How else

free ourselves from wants

imposed on us, return to
our natures? The same way

a lover's voice can erase

all the words it has spoken
or might ever speak, leaving

only a signature of sound -


How else free ourselves from
whatever misunderstandings

might bring, the slippage hot

between us as the friction rubs
off what had been assigned

in favor of what cannot be

known. To know the difference
between flirting with the fuck

and fucking with the flirt will

cost you dearly - no other
way to know what is needed

long after the face comes off -


"Nobody will show more
vulnerability than they

can possibly bear," I heard

the stranger say - stray cats
under the table feasting

on chunks of calamari

the tourists who passed on
giving the gypsy mother

any change had tossed

into the dust - then added:
"Nor a nightmare from

which they cannot wake."


I. Something Here

has kept me up

all night, some
insistent thing

like a drill - no -

a jackhammer
pounding though

the walls unseen

though I cannot
seem to locate

where I am or

even if I mind
all of this that

keeps intruding

on what wants
to come but can't

even as it shakes

my very sense
of being and who

it was I thought

I'd been for
all these years

up until tonight -

II. Maybe Because

this is the bed

he had slept on
before I had

arrived, it still

feels the pressure
of his body

where mine now

lies nakedly
dreaming -one

body longing

for another
who's already

been here before

imagining what
might come

to replace it

but never quite
meeting this

new stranger

who'd come
to unsettle all

that came before -

III. The Last Thing

I thought I'd do

after reading
his words was to

jack off instead

of writing him
back in my own

hand to keep me

from what I'd
longed for - some

peace of mind

by going on
without for just

awhile longer

so that I might
hold him even

closer than what

seemed possible
for us - it is

true, isn't it? -

what came on
though I hardly

even knew him -


[jump to Thomas Fink's essay on Liu's poetry in this issue]