Three poems by Zach Linge • Empty Mirror

in back ii / credit: dein back ii / credit: de

First Week Without You

Vintage and rented Business Relationships stacked beside
my pillow, boxers knotted around my calves,
asphyxiated by my sweater midday, I’m sorry:
I have found without you the bed swallows
like a sink, so I should be more cautious.
It’s rags and a mattress in your absence.
The springs rust without your softening.
The frame becomes a creaky basin.

Outside, the street threatens to take:
a stoplight tells me not to stop,
don’t stop; a roundabout winks.
Inside, our hallways portend places
one can enter but can never leave.
I want you to smile no matter
whether we’re together or apart:
with pleasure, I want only always
more. Writhe with me. Grin, moan
without. Let me watch. Picture shingles
that splatter in the wind and shriek like that.

Let’s rush it, love like furuncles squeezed
between green thumbs, and when we slide
onto and off each other’s sex again, when
you come back into me to make this bed
a bed, I’ll pressure your skin between
massaging palms in oil and in stink, I’ll kiss
you into quietness as cool as condensation
on an abalone bowl, and drip like that.

We will drip like that. But for now,
I have cold sweats as I sink and rise
in thinking of you; I have your tongue
in an inclination on the inside of my cheek;
I plunge French presses in succession
to keep from underneath the sheets,
to hold, to keep from underneath.

Apology with/out Dry-Erase

My dead granddad’s glass jewelry tray
reads Come at me again in cherry-pink
because I assumed all smooth surfaces
would take to dry-erase ink. My thighs
repeat the phrase just friends; I can’t scrub
the bedroom ceiling clean of Promise me.
I was running out of ink and can’t say
half of what I mean if it’s serious, so
the walls began to repeat themselves:
Here’s a room demanding the impossible
from love. Here’s the home’s front door
with a frame, stained with Sorry, which
reminds me every morning what I didn’t
say at night. Here I am unwriting a way
back through that door. You were right.
Yellow. Green. Pink. You. Were right.

Valentine Straps the Saddle

I crave, disintegrate, balk and falter
at the strength in the slant of your

cursive, and buck as a horse, snarl,
bite, bear my teeth, as a dog, crack

my canines on the fences which you,
I have come to learn, are opening.

Thus, I know I’ve been a buck, a dog,
both lunging and beaten before you

began to excavate each beast, because
every animal questions his new intimate

Will he love me? Will he be delicate as he
straps the saddle? Then we let ourselves

be kept, ask Can I keep him? when with
time the hand proves gentle and true,

which I knew—that you were gentle.
I knew it in your eyes, though it seems

every animal must ask this for himself.
Would that you would have me, I will

forfeit all my animals to you, scrivener,
to rewrite as I likewise wait by every

gate, my hand above another handle,
teeth dripping on another link, until

we learn each of one another’s fences,
crouched on either side and opening,

knowing more then and less somehow
than when we met, than we know now.

About Zach Linge

Zach Linge’s publications include poems recently or forthcoming in such journals as Poetry, New England Review, Puerto Del Sol, and The Adroit Journal and a refereed article in a special issue of African American Review on Percival Everett. Linge is the recipient of a scholarship to the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, an Adroit 2020 Djanikian Finalist, and the Editor-in-Chief of Southeast Review. You can find him on Twitter @ZachLinge, at, and on Instagram @ratsonzach.

Business Relationships Book