I didn’t know you could be allergic to cold
water. Reactions can range from hives
to death—though yours have always been mild.
Summer came late this year, the lake full of fresh
rains and runoff. That didn’t stop you from jumping in.
When I remembered to look for you, you’d disappeared.
I called your name. No reply. You emerged
moments later like nothing had happened—eyes red,
full from looking. As a kid, you nearly died
trying to sleep through two different typhoons.
The first, the house filled with water.
The next, with gas. You slept through it all.
My god, I love when you open your eyes.
Sestina for Blue
Dear Monochromatic Marlboro Man,
boogie down and promise you’ll hit the road before sunrise.
I like your bad breath and the way you leave
me sore: a remembering. My body, which escapes
more often than I care to admit, blooms
blue if I’m lucky. You bite me here, so I bruise
here the following day. These bruises
litter my thighs, make my feel like a man
who has known love and the pain that blooms
in its absence. I sleep through every sunrise
so I won’t be caught by its truth: I will never escape
my mother’s eventual death. She’ll leave
me before I have a chance to leave
cheap bouquets at her door, petals bruised
from neglect: apologies I’m not sure I owe. To escape
the guilt is impossible. She told me once to never let a man
ply me with Manhattans, but baby, I like to be plied. Sunrise
slides by again—her daffodils bloom
against my will. Your cigarette butts bloom
too, drowned in the ashtray I leave
outside. Marlboro Lights, same as my dad. Water rises
up to my eyeballs and old bruises
refill with blood like they know I need company. Men
touch me while I’m working. I crave an escape
from myself. Smoke weed on the fire escape
at night, watch blue light bloom
from the apartment across the alley. This man
never turns off his TV. I wish to be left
alone until I know what I want (your bruises
aside). I just need one more sunrise
to figure it out. But each morning, I rise
reminded of failed promises. The urge to escape
burns hot. Every ignored call a new bruise
on my mother’s papery skin, blooming
evidence that I’ve already waited too long. Leave
a cigarette behind for me, Marlboro Man.
I’ll save it to smoke with a Manhattan
on the day of my mother’s death. Let’s raise a glass—
to all the bruises that have yet to bloom.
One bather’s suit is red; barely
covers a thing. I like it. You and I
let sunlight find every fold. The river
flows wide here, shallow over granite
slabs. Where it gathers into a deep pool,
a fire glows underwater, daytime disco
licking drowned rock. It was you
who said this first, about the fire.
You’re always noticing the shape of light
in water, trying to capture it. I’m in love
with your devotion as much as I am
the looseness of your grip. I really mean that.
The person stands on a ledge now, poised
to leap into deep water. I see the red suit
pooled at their feet. I hope they feel eternal—
having shed this latest skin.
Dia Roth is a non-binary femme poet living in Seattle. Their work appears or is forthcoming in Poetry Northwest, HAD, Ghost City Review, and elsewhere. When they’re not writing or reading, you can find them floating in the nearest body of water. They tweet @diaroth____.