Poetry & Fiction

Brooklyn Poetry: Joanna Valente


We are always in rooms and we are hardly ever ourselves
with other people in rooms

that are closed and our hands don’t exist
and we can’t remember if we ever had bodies
or if we were always just in a dark room

asking, who was lonely first?
Inside someone’s belly there is you and we are connected
and there is a lot of blood but we don’t know where it came from

or who it belongs to or how we own it. And there is your body
and there is my body on top of it

and then there are waves—
but you are not part of them.

What does it mean to know someone else’s body
like spatial memories of your grandmother’s kitchen, the smell of zucchini
bread and cigarettes and the desire for emptiness

like you never existed

even though I trace your outline
in the dark

and what do you say to the waiter who asks your name
and you are scared and I am scared like the first day of school

and because of that we’re not scared because it’s silly to feel around in the dark
for the same thing without realizing we’re the same thing.

How can you be different if there are no such things
as bodies?

You say sorry for hitting the dog once, that time you cheated,
because your rapist went free

so you sit by the ocean lighting bone hoping
to molt into a new body before mercury retrograde
because even lizards know not to fuck with the stars

and you’re waiting for the water to bubble up and spill
over so you finally choke.



Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York. They are the author of Sirs & Madams, The Gods Are Dead, Marys of the Sea, Sexting Ghosts, Xenos, No(body) (forthcoming, Madhouse Press, 2019), and is the editor of A Shadow Map: Writing by Survivors of Sexual Assault. They received their MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Joanna is the founder of Yes Poetry and the senior managing editor for Luna Luna Magazine. Some of their writing has appeared in The Rumpus, Them, Brooklyn Magazine, BUST, and elsewhere. Joanna also leads workshops at Brooklyn Poets. joannavalente.com / Twitter: @joannasaid / IG: joannacvalente / FB: joannacvalente

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