p. hodges adams
2023 Greg Gummer Prize Runner-Up
come hear me, in my twenty-fifth year
i stopped having sex with gender i mean
my lovers all favored the vestibule of language outside the party i mean
i hesitated there myself, had for years, gripping
something more slippery than connotation. so what
if my body was still a nascent crescent and
so what if my pronoun was treated like so much fat,
neatly carved away from the meat of the conversation—i
knew how to remove the pits from avocados how to fit
four fingers in the side wound of christ (yea i doubted,
stood corrected; yea i trimmed my nails)
and even when i wanted death, o! i sought heat
in strangers’ showers, o! i ate fruit on april sundays.
and when it stopped—the dying i mean—i split and spread
some peaking green thing i choked the weeds and blossomed
bruises i flooded the dirt with water i didn’t say a word. that
was the problem. i was supposed to love language more than my hands
but i wanted to keep my hands. two roads
divulged in a yellow wood, one said you can’t have it back
the other, you can’t have it back and you’ll kill yourself trying
okay. the choice should have been clear, but i hesitated.
and then was distracted by sex and i don’t mean the body
i mean two bodies and the knot they make (sailors whistling
and singing) (salt water) (sunrise over sea foam) but
i never stopped thinking. until i stopped thinking. in the absence
of word or marker or a license that said F and blu i became livid,
liquid, and starving, o! red wine and stewed tomatoes, o!
red okra less slimy than the green. the rocks uncovered. low tide
and crooning to winkles that sucked on my palms. the crooning was wordless.
one low note held constant. and they moved for me. they moved.
i proved myself wrong: i made it past the mayfly’s
24-hour sex-death lifespan and now the party’s in full swing, i’m on the porch
looking at the moon, and the night is full of sound and perfect.
goddamn perfect. even the trees here sing.
p. hodges adams
P. HODGES ADAMS is a michigander poet who received their MFA from the university of virginia. their work has appeared or is forthcoming in shenandoah, cutbank, sycamore review, new orleans review, december magazine, arkansas international, northwest review, fourteen poems, and elsewhere. they were a finalist for the 2022 jeff marks memorial poetry prize, the 2021 connecticut river review experimental poetry prize, and the 2020 graybeal-gowen prize for virginia writers. hopefully they will transform into a beam of sunlight someday soon.
Art: “Small Green Totem” by Jean Wolff, Acrylic on Canvas