There are barbed rose stems | Arien Reed

Replacing my veins
Or so I could have believed
From the lupine-light way
You hid your skin within my skin

From between your bifurcating pulses
I gazed up into your oyster-gray eyes
My lips a corpse for I had not
Yet learned how to tell you no

The roundness of your eyes
Could be the thinnest whisper
Because no one taught you to
Say forgive me after the touching

I didn’t want to be your cremated
Secret, I just wanted to sing
The way a bird can sing
Flapping its wings and still

Drowning, I just wanted to not see
Your urgency in that orange sea
Of curtain-polluted sunlight
Your breath climbing from A

To F-sharp and stuttering like stars
Falling up, I just wanted to be held
Only by night’s whimpering breeze
Because I am the height of adult hips

And when my mouth fits the shape
Of you, it is only because
This clumsy tongue is too obedient
To give shape instead to a voice

Every Saturday for one year
I will learn perfect
Silence as you teach me
How a girl comes

As close to a scream
As silent can


Arien Reed, a trans artist and 2019 MFA graduate from National University, lives with his husband and works at Fresno City College, where he co-founded the LGBTQ Allied Staff and Faculty Association on which he currently serves as president. His poetry and art has appeared, or is forthcoming, in the TulipTree Review, La Piccioletta Barca, Beyond Words, the GNU journal, and others.


Image by Arien Reed