Poetry Issue #54

Sonnet for Fat Purple Figs

After Sylvia Plath

If the figs on this tree represent
a life left unexplored, I’ll pluck dozens,
dropping the fat purple ones in the folds
of my shirt. I will sit in the shadow
of the branches & let the juice rest on my tongue,
drip down my neck before I try another
& another & another. Though I know each bite
is a step in every direction without moving,
that tasting is not feasting, that precarity
once meant prayer, I will consume enough
versions of myself to fill a century,
quell my desire to split the world in two. Yes, you
will find me here: sticky chin & belly distended
with what I’d like to call possibility.

How to Mourn the Loss of Your Brother’s Tenderness

When your brother calls after six months of silence,
bring up his friend, Ryan.
When he tells you their friendship fizzled out,
Ask how Ryan is.
When he laughs under his breath & says, still gay,
let that sit a moment. Add, surprising yourself, I am different, too
& notice how the words come out faster than expected.
Consider how he distances himself from your queerness,
tells you he will raise his child straight.
When he declares it is the norm,
question him. 
When he suggests you are too hung up on words,
allow some of his to slip past:
                   can’t decide
                   so serious
Hold vigil for his lies waiting to be unraveled—observe
the exhaustion of extending empathy with none in return.
Hold space for your humanity
& hang up.

On Becoming My Own God

Have you ever craved the touch of a woman
           while wrapped in the arms of a man
you decided to park your purse next to? Or your shoes,
           taking up so much floor space they expand into yards,
houses with picket fences? I used to think passing cars
             sound like urban waves. Now, my head banging
against the wall drowns out the sound, and I’m thankful
             for a neighbor who might bang back, yelling, enough with the racket!
See, this is the kind of interaction I crave: marble-like
            human connection without the fuss of intimacy.
Would you like to go to a rage room with me? To take a mallet
           to old narratives and their borders? I once told my professor
nothing good comes out of a binary, and he responded
            by lowering my grade. In the same class, a cocky grad student

called Venus of Willendorf the first body positive statue
           —assuming her breasts, round and sloping like mine
would always be outside of peak aesthetic, outside
           of some form of wanting. I long
for my body to become a neutral space,
           but even these bed sheets feel me and think, how rough.
I’m learning to say fuck you
           better. If this year is a burning pile of plastic

with enough fumes to knock out a cockroach,
            I’ll be my own god taking it day-by-day.
By Michelle Hulan

Michelle Hulan (she/her) is a Canadian poet based out of Brooklyn. She is a Tin House Writers Workshop alum and graduate of the University of Ottawa’s MA in English program. She works as a curriculum developer at a non-profit, creating online training for people who work with clients experiencing or at-risk of homelessness.