The Tragedian

Why is it that love turns me into a tragedian?

Portrait of poet Billy-Ray Belcourt

I am falling in love with a man.
It has been three years since the last one.
Summer after summer after long summer
I retreated to my commune of nostalgia,
my little lighthouse at the edge of the world.
Each time, I hung my heart up on the door like a raincoat.
Each time, I painted the walls a new shade of blue:
hungry sapphire, hungry cobalt, hungry lapis.
It was easy to pretend
the sounds of the brutal earth
weren’t mounting to a foreign music around me.
Now, when he touches me,
I feel like a poorly folded photograph
or a pile of imperfect orange rinds!
Oh, to toss myself away! To be an obedient blur!
To shiver in that empty blue room again!
Why is it that love turns me into a tragedian?
Into someone without a history of solace or fearlessness?
Here’s an hour inside which to age gracelessly,
the wall clock seems to demand.
I wish I knew how to be a person,
but when he puts his animal mouth to my chest,
I think of slaughter.
I would be a beautiful wound to dance inside of—
what this means is that, there are mornings
in which I have to invent the concept of happiness.
It is ugly, ugly work,
and my hands are so calloused.

Billy-Ray Belcourt
Billy-Ray Belcourt is a poet, author, and scholar from the Driftpile Cree Nation. He won the 2018 Griffin Poetry Prize for his debut collection, This Wound Is a World.

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