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Lives You Never Had: Two Poems by Tyler Tsay

‘the games you played as a child: / cracks breaking bones with every step. alive because / that’s your job.’

By Tyler Tsay
Poetry | death, love, sex
May 3, 2016



animal games

to boy of drowning in a river, here are the lives
you never had. when you woke each morning
& built yourself from nothing. your body
in the mirror as how do we fix you. you are searching
in your chest for every spark left behind as though what
you touch can be undone. the games you played as a child:
cracks breaking bones with every step. alive because
that’s your job. the games you play now: throat as the first
fire. as the riot of your lips. who can steal gravity
from the noose. who can pretend to be a story, because
that’s one hell of a story, boy surviving, isn’t it?




to faceless sex (love)

i take the bloodlust
from your mouth & build
a kingdom of it. black shoal walls. my midas
tongue chaining you to this rash
of yellow rock. you want me
bone-washed. pale as a wrist
over glass. man in whatever room you are in.
the first time i loved, he was thin
as seacrust. his mouth, a bridge to nowhere.
i jumped. again & again. dark crucifix
rising like madness. his trembling weight,
a daughter i would never have.
then, i was perfect. underneath him,
a glistening, white scar.

i still dream. i still dream
that this nation born
breaking silence
is not all bone grating bone,
but a flock of starlings in flight.
not all bullets doused in men,
but a world experimenting with distance – like a child
taking its first steps from its mother.

but come now, you say. to rule & be ruled,
that is the honor

so enter, brutal nation,
as before – skin of spent planets,
fiery shaft of flickering not-sound.
because this war began long ago –
not with guns
or hatred, but lives
too big for us in the first place.

the first time i loved was when a man showed me
where the stars mirrored our graves
& buried me a god. today, as i stand
in the people i am
supposed to fill, i wonder if this,
too, is love.