Collapsing Sestina by Ryan Cook
You found the hot tub abandoned on the side of the road while you chased a storm;
The motor was full of sand and shells so you had to buy a new one. You change
this story every time you tell it to me. In the womb of the tub, we watch the snow-
fall from the void before hitting the heated atmosphere and vanishing, as in a game. Where does it go? I ask while I unwrap the towel from my chest and dip
into my favorite corner. You think for a moment, on our skin you say as you lie
back into the jet’s fold. I make a blank face before laughing at your lie—
sometimes they are good to point out, other lies I watch fall apart like a storm
that disappears as quickly as it’s born. You spit another membrane of dip
into your beer can and ask if I’m old enough to drink at parties yet. I try to change
the subject but you dive into another story. You used to play this game:
at midnight you get shit faced near Beaver Stadium, strip down naked, and run into
banks with your frat buddies—whoever caved first had to buy groceries. The snow
didn’t affect us much since alcohol increases your body heat (also a lie)
My mind jumps to what you did after your game
ended: naked, drunk, and shivering together. Did your whole frat storm
the nearest diner? Did you cuddle in the car to stay warm? You change
your gaze from the sky back to me
As you pack another wad in between your lips. I hate your dip
—how that stains the couch—but when you spit it out into the fresh snow
it looked like maple taffy. I sip my beer. Your face tightens and you change
to a flat whisper; don’t ever get involved in the heavy stuff. It made me lie
and ruin my marriage. I would wake up on the side of the road; I would storm
around screaming at you or the dog. I didn’t like who I was— It’s a zero-sum game.
I look up at the starless sky of white as I focus on the word ‘game’
how it feels to move words around in my mouth; how it feels to dip
parts of myself into a series of rules and consequences. The storm
moves on ahead of us and the hot tub jets stop jetting, and I lie
and say It’s okay. In this particular poem, the moment starts to change.
I walk out of the hot tub, change out of my shorts, dip-
per blazing above the clouds. I think of you: drunk, and buried in cold.
I lie down and hold you. I hold you as the clouds hold the storm.
Ryan Cook is a Brooklyn based genderqueer poet and performer whose work specializes in queer mythologies, digital cultures, and curses, and has been published or are forthcoming in Iterant, Tupelo Quarterly, Thimble Lit Mag, the Nightboat Blog, No Dear Mag, the Poetry Project’s Footnotes Series, and Hot Pink Mag. They also work as an Events Host for McNally Jackson Bookstore , as well as work as a Program Associate for the Flow Chart Foundation. Alongside Aiden Farell, they co-host the “Unnamed Reading Series” that features artists from all over New York. Currently, they are working on a chapbook about the aesthetics of cringe.