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People, with Figurative Language

Matthew Tuckner

I’ve never seen the back of my head,

but I’m sure it nearly resembles

a planet, continents grown too old

to stay together shattered into

their constituent parts, some surging

into grand mountain ranges, others

crumbling into skinny sand-spits

where something that looks like me,

but not quite, once crawled from

the water & discovered the supple

vertebrae of its spine. A spine that,

like the weather, ties me to the last

reticulated giraffes in ways I can

only scarcely begin to fathom.

It’s true, I’ve got some Emperor Hadrian

in my decision-making, the liquified

bones of a pterodactyl in my car engine,

yet I still drag around boatloads of feeling—

my arms notoriously goosebump from a hug,

& the clacking of string in the belly

of a piano can tug a tear from my eye.

It’s true, there’s almost nothing

I’ve seen, & yet I still grew bored

in Rome, its endless one-point perspective,

the brassy hats of its pope, the aqueduct

I cowered under, begging it for more aqueduct.

It seems we’ve argued with ourselves

for long enough in this watercolor of our

being loomed over by cloudy angels,

frozen in place by the heat, cubed off into cells

of blood & skin, red & blue purpling

only in the places where it counts.

What exactly is—ears, nose, & mouth—

the use of all this? We’ve quartered our years

into seasons like ham sandwiches,

traded dead presidents for milky ways,

strung mobiles of satellite in the night sky,

loaded our arms with lead & yet

I’ve still never seen the face I see out of.

Matthew Tuckner is a writer from New York. He is currently an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at NYU where he was Poetry Editor of Washington Square Review and taught in the Undergraduate Writing Program. He was the winner of the 2022 Yellowwood Poetry Prize, selected by Paige Lewis, and was a finalist for the annual Mississippi Review Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming inAmerican Poetry Review, The Adroit Journal, 32 Poems, Copper Nickel, Colorado Review, Pleiades, West Branch, The Cincinnati Review, The Missouri Review, and Poetry Daily, among others.

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