“It Could Have Been”

Title after Gabe Meline’s article, “It Could Have Been Any One of Us” on the Ghost Ship Warehouse Fire, 2017

For Griffith, and everyone we lost

Set the flame.
Warm the tracks.
Let the fire break the cold.
On an Internet video clip,
I see a train run through fire
in Chicago
Repeat again, and elsewhere.
Do not forget, this is where
Your body moves freely, this is
Why we came.

Home. The ship as home. An ill fitting world.
My father’s ashes in the sea.
I struggled to meet him there.
He always wanted to live in a ship
We looked through circular windows
Before he died, I struggled to understand
My relationship to the sea, hunger, and suicide.

Can a city stand in for a good parent?

I left for you because I realized

I was a poet

I left for you because I realized

I was a homosexual

I left for you because

I wanted to ride

to remember you  we lay

Hours in the Oakland sun trying
To write poetry
Our queer backs take in the dirt      ground our bones wide.
At night, you painted my body
We melted with the earth,
Skin flowers everywhere.

Green, pink, red, and brown. Confession: I still like that combination.

Confession: I liked touching you

at the shark pit

we danced into

the early morning

kissing two people at the same time

you learn fast how to take turns

tell me,

let’s dismantle,

this ill fitting world, that still can’t hold your heart

your heart the size of a small fist.

A small fist relative to what you imagine.

Another way: tell me about how your muscles felt

after we walked through parts of Berkeley for miles

we tried to find a party themed on freedom,

still lost, at midnight

you kissed my nose.

You will write me a poem to say goodbye.

Tell me how it felt when you emerged from the train
that first time
you moved here
stopped at 16th and mission street,
walked up the stairs,
your eyes met the bridge and the sky.

the city desecrated     now

Orlando, Oakland, the Elections

Remember, there is no progress, only vigilance and love

And shadows
Never broken in light.

Margaret Rhee is the author of chapbooks Radio Heart; or How Robots Fall Out of Love (Finishing Line Press, 2015), Yellow (Tinfish press, 2013) and the forthcoming full-length poetry collection, Love, Robot (The Operating System 2017). She received her Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in Ethnic and New Media Studies, and co-led a decade-long feminist digital storytelling implemented in the SF jail: ourstorysf.wordpress.com/. She teaches at the University of Oregon.

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