Jesse Della Riley

I want for Elliot a fullness.


Well we can go

in the queer bars,


dumb with sweat,

& our grime is sugary


we can pack bodies

in the dark


What a glory


we are


Death is dim & blurry

I live,

I live,

I live,

& your beauty

& up and down my back


well we can go

to St. Louisa’s


in the back where people disperse,

& we fuck.



& our grime is urgent.


The world after all,

& what have we got left.


You say, “well, to quench.”

Your hand is warm.


Your breath is wrapping around

my chin,


You say, “oh, I am,

I am.”


you are wrapped to the floor

I am out of breath


My lips stand out

dry and cracked


I want.

oh, it is well


Things have happened here.

wet swimsuits hung out to dry

tables rolled over and strung with lights

a fort in the third bedroom

bad movies

laughter & a couch

a house.


Why do we measure time?


Let’s measure touch.

Let us


measure time

in terms of bread and shoes,


and fish

in relative extent of ocean


blue; let us not explain

ourselves & what we have studied


& not made money from;

let us not remember


every useless tick of time;

let us


not invent new trouble

unless it’s fun & maybe



I am


so happy; I am the first

or the last to break; I am full


I am branded with a scripture

I am burnt with everlasting fire


I cannot take the early parts

of life without medicine


I am drawn from his mouth

as a stone


I am not a god, not a gentle voice

& nor is god


I am the first or the last to renounce

every broken word;


I have gone forward,

I have gone backward,


I have gone onward from

silence to silence; I have


hung wet swimsuits

and violets


Take me home

where laundry



in beached wind:


Where the swallow

hides her treed kitchen:


The cicada rubs

to every heat-drenched night:


The wind says, “Blessed

are the ones I leave to die.”


So having slept,

raise me again,



give me more violets,


out of sleep, new violets,

rise them sticky sweet,


as rimming,

wild honeysuckle;


give me more words;

out of sleep and sleep,


the fringe of love is lined with fire


& wild,

& wild,

& wild,

weeded words

& the hung, wet swimsuit of a child.



Failed to catch the thing.


If it’s gone past a lover,

every fluffed-up cloud,

stars, the moon,

Jupiter’s blue,


& hasn’t found God,

what does longing attach to?


We chew through black coffee.


I am plump and bloated.  You call me bloody

adjusting my panties.  A moth opens


and shuts its wings like an injured fan.


We brew coffee & dress buttered toast.  The moths

& their bellies full


of cotton.


In the morning we brew coffee.

In the morning, a whine from the husky.

In the morning what does a mouth


Take me home.

The wildness of love ebbs like a wave.

The absence of God only increases wildness.

You say, “So the Lord has grown our longing.”

You lie in our bed in a wig. You smell
not so much of sex, as toothpaste.


So the Lord; grow me long.


You say, “For God to cast out darkness,

put your longing inside me.”


Awanmoon held out her fishing net

& failed to catch the thing.

A comet burned a hole through her net.


Tell me your long places.


Your fingers curl to your coffee.

I reach for your face and forget why.


I long &

grow taller.


Wane: to grow



We say we are standing.

Really we are swaying like insects.


Or someone on the sea.


The moths are chewing.

Waning: less and less light.

Fuck me on this day


with clouds.


Jesse Della Riley is a genderfluid poet from Georgia and is currently completing an MFA at the University of Massachusetts under Ocean Vuong, Peter Gizzi, and Dara Wier. Their poetry explores unfriendly deities they don’t believe in and friendly people they do. They are an editor for jubilat Literary Magazine and will be the Assistant Editor starting in Fall 2018.

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