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Forswear; or, Hudson, Part 1

would that there were endless ink     the skyscraper
flame reflected in the Hudson as the poem appears there

I keep you to one side the river on the other
words just copy to you padding your billfolds so that

on holiday you miss a sunset meet a deadline     my tongue
even that you’ve sanctioned off as if you’ve assessed

whether it has surplus value at this time or not and here I am
singing silently of you     dumb like I am in love even though

I am not some men are just excuses for the words
to form     some idol or prop to coax the stream to begin

but I would never or I think I could never solder myself to one
who in guilt threw my notebook into the courtyard fountain

All these abstractions!     some nights our bodies’ urges
align even if the river refuses to reflect the moon

others I write in another room sometimes with real blood
you clack on Midas keys that form letters then coins yet

the tongue to me is a currency     I write about wanting you
wooing me again before I began to fall or feel more than you did

and I started to wonder if you were right the words nothing
but a performance of the very emotions they set into play

as if I love you solely because I write it down     you open
your wallet to pay our dinner bill eyeing me as if I’m insolvent

No, I’ll pay this time     you offer no tender part of yourself and yet
I somehow relinquish the words (all words) so that

I can have yours on those few occasions you mouth them

Skins; or, Hudson, Part 2

I keep you or else the river to one side so that I am between your body and the possibility of you drowning     there are people in homes lit as if they want to be seen opening bottles or staring deep into the blue hazes of laptops or holding a child dressed in an actual bonnet beneath a mobile dangling stars the color of rubies     you live farther up the hill where the rent is cheaper but the neighbors remain the sort to keep several cars a gun a sailboat albeit moored most seasons but no one need know about that tiny detail

I stand between you and the city on the other side of the water poised as if to block your entrance and ensure mine     we might stubbornly be holding hands instead of our breaths if you at least let me know I was your lover for I wouldn’t dare ask you to scream such scandal to your office mates the people across the hallway from you your bloody parents     you worry about my writing because you cannot read abstractions so I walk you out on a jut of bridge that actually terminates in the Hudson knowing you are acrophobic and read you Pound midpond

in bed we rarely argue and we are rarely silent our skin the same color yours more Northern and hairy than mine     before you caught bed bugs on the F train we lay always me holding you despite me wanting you to listening to the lap of waves you swore you could hear beneath the lurch of buildings the bray of crowds tourists investment bankers     I told you their stories but you made yours sound more pitiful or privileged than theirs—I’m never sure which—despite the fact that you have the same hairdresser trainer bidet chambermaid

our bodies worked the same way the river mandates along the elevated promontory we parade down pretending we are doing something together     my soul is better than yours but your clothing fits you chicer around the thighs where the tailor has pulled the seam taut or in your shoes more thickly-soled because you can afford to tip the cobbler well     I think that I want to love you if I don’t love to want you some night when I intuit or feign living in that opulent way     I stop myself from kissing you in front of a group of Japanese tourists assembled for a photograph they eagerly ask me to take you clicking your tongue outside of my mouth to the speed of the shutter

when we are on the other side of the river I keep it to my right and nurse a poem while we clock our miles our relationship is more about the terrain and distance covered on an app I have on my phone than you texting me to ask how my day was     I am used to lovers leaving volumes behind them in their wakes you leave a wispy footnote and your spectacles     some sullen Saturday we let our stomachs grumble back on your couch and you starve me for five more hours while you get caught up in work after checking Yelp and Seamless on your laptop

I watch other men dressed like you dull like you in the same bodies but different skins framed in floor-to-ceiling windows as the light changes because the season is     the only difference I can discern is that I am present with you whether ignored or not whereas they are alone or with dogs or with mobiles pressed to their ears mouths fingertips     you all have such faraway looks as you glare at your screens keeping you from loving the body who is bending right into yours asking you your story but hearing only about your boss your bills your bed bugs


K. Thomas Kahn’s work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Millions, The Quarterly Conversation, Open Letters Monthly, Music & Literature, Numéro Cinq, Bookslut, Full Stop, and other venues. He is the editorial director of 3:AM Magazine.

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