Poetry by Orion Allen


Felt bad so I stood crooked & what it did to my shoulders 
in the carpeted apartment of my childhood friend & her soon-to-be 

Felt watched, index finger hooked beneath my tie. Thought  

I was hungriest till we were swarmed in what might have been 
a riverbed in a canyon in the desert by mosquitoes 

Had forgotten what mountains look like but they weren’t my mountains

Put on a show for you & you watch me standing in my head

Put on a show for you in my head at the wedding & you watch me
stand with my arms behind my back like some approximation

At the Hotel

was forced to stumble over
the absolute I am
in service of, irregardless of shapes
from at least two Junes ago
feeling inside just how long ago was

Our reunion in the city beholden
as congregants, kneading our hands
as if resolve were between them, you chide
me and I drag my finger along a windowsill
let it gather dust

The absolute: we are the same
or there is nothing between us. And our sameness
vessel empty again. Already sent you my yes
my resplendent yeses, back to Texas
and watched you coax them

into your breath and return them
to me stale, watched the film where the father’s
face contorts and the child knows well
to use silence, watched a row of strangers
caress a woman’s statue’s head

in the last sunlight of the year in the park
I would frequent when I was still
a child. Thought of you often. Wanted to tell you
about the men I served and what I was
to them, their drunkenness, about these years

and what they did, the new growth
under my chin. Swam fifty laps a day
said all this in my head, every turn
a turn away from the girl jostled
in your passenger seat, ready for a show.


Orion Allen is a poet, translator, bartender, and poetry instructor living in Iowa. You can read more of their work at orionallen.com.