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Poetry by Travis Tate



I notice when I get there, the wine is gone.

It’s not a sad scene but I
almost cry upon seeing everyone wrapped
in each other’s grace.

The light arrives marred but clear, almost elegant.

Do you ever get the feeling that something is about to change
but you’re unsure of what exactly it is or when exactly it will happen?

The ground beneath us is dirt, is hard,
wants rain. More and more people arrive,
some not even knowing I would be there.

Each person, a map
of where I’ve been
& what I will leave behind.

I whisper
I love & kiss the sides of their necks.

Love is the sky, pitched black, radiant dot
of white to guide young hearts to this spot
in a backyard fashioned into a meeting place.

I feel like crying but then make a joke,
watch everyone become some unbreakable glass.

We shouldn’t be here at all. None of us.
The world is turning over. I mean

my world is turning over. I mean
my world is turning me over.

Everyone here eventually leaves.
Even some two by two.

All my life, I want to write a good poem about the moon.


I walk into the murky water of a lake in Austin.

I pretend that I am being baptized like John
does for Jesus, held gently by the neck, one man
leaning over another man, maybe their beards

touch for a moment before Jesus is submerged
in the saltwater of the Jordan. I feel renewed but
only for few hours as dusk turns on all of us for revenge.

I feel weak the way the soft trees with their
white blooms do. Jesus was 30 when he was baptized.

I will soon walk into the strange & murky water of 30.
Hopefully to abandon bad elemental emotions

like a underfed gray cat slinking through a parking lot.
The water is cold. I hope no snakes come to bite my ankles.

Later that evening, surrounded by actors, I feel a straight
line, a sliver of something cold running through my left
shoulder down right to the edge of where my stomach lies

against other organs. I recognize that this strain is
nostalgic, somewhere between 12th grade and junior year
of college. It’s about the body reaction to change. Drop a dry

body into hard wet salt & you are made anew. When Jesus
raises his wet head, his cold hair, he is something else.

for Thom May

We ride our skinny bikes up the hills of Austin. I imagine us as small
children but just as weary as we are now & that brings me some kind of
joy, knowing that wounds still lie on the cold bathroom floor
no matter what age you are. Crimson, the light from the fountainous sky.
You ask me how I know things & I smile because, well, I don’t know facts
or dates or history but sometimes cold feels the same in each heart.
& then we eat ice cream or drink whiskey or smoke cigarettes
in some lawn decked brown from the swift Texas sun. & a few people
mistake us for boyfriends- which is funny & then sad but maybe just for me.
They called Austin the Violet Crown because when the sun is setting
there is a large ring of purple that floats around the city. It’s something
geological. Atmospheric mystery, god’s calling card for grace.


I try to look at nature. To imagine that I’m looking through it.
Back to. I suppose god. Or back through everything to you?

Yesterday, I fell in love with a boy who has a boyfriend already.
Today, all of it has gone & I have a new goal. Marry rich.

I do keep saying goals aloud because I know that someone is listening.
Aperture, off to the side of all this.
I’m strong in thinking you will appear.

I notice that everything is cyclical as I walk past
the mirror twice, unlock the car door, watch
everyone come & go from the grocery store.

There is something in the water, cold, cold-
then fine. It’s stunning & refreshing at once.

I make a new friend & he tells me I have to get in the water
& that I’m attractive & that all the men here are attractive too.
We doggie paddle for a time, swim left & right, then on our backs.

He tells me something private
while strangers with almost no clothes on
sit all around us. I think what great fortune
before lying on my back, letting the sun warm my wet body.

Each time I laugh, the whole universe fluctuates
like a bag of emeralds & diamonds.

I open once and then twice. Make believe that you love
me but I don’t say anything to you. This happens repeatedly
many times over to many different eligible bachelors.

& I realize suddenly I’m not confident, as I’m falling
asleep at the job I do to pay the bills.

Suddenly every day blurs into each other & I am drunk
on something I’ve been drunk on far too many times before.

God is destructive in the evenings.


travis tate is a queer, black playwright, poet and performer from Austin, Texas. Their poetry has appeared in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review,Underblong, Mr. Ma’am, apt, and Cosmonaut Avenue. Their plays include It's A Travesty! One Night With Jazzie Mercado, MotherWitch, and Queen of The Night. Upcoming: Reading of Seneca with Scottish Rite Theatre in Austin, Tx. They earned an MFA in playwriting and poetry from the Michener Center for Writers. More at travisltate.com.

Be sure to check out this exclusive interview with travis on the Orson’s Publishing blog.