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Mercury in Retrograde

And there was that time I came home to find him

washing the sheets,

and there was that night he went to his buddy’s

but he trimmed his ruddy beard first,

and at that gallery opening, when he rushed me through the sculptures, eying a girl who’d just walked in,

and there were those times I had to remind myself

to trust

and now it seems like a cigarette lit onstage,

the firecracker smell and the smoke.

Such are the effects and such are the scenes: fear of getting close; dinner, the arrangement of.

And then the negligence of those arrangements, the lack of all things commitment, of all things, respect.

Only with a smattering of sunlight, only

under a patch of blue paper,

only until you’ve gone so long without touch

will he gently touch you

not with any force, but with some insistence, from behind, on your shoulder, on your neck.

And it is some relief to know he’s there,

and it is some relief to weep.


JUSTIN JANNISE is the author of How to Be Better by Being Worse, which won the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize and is forthcoming from BOA Editions, Ltd., in April 2021. His poems have appeared in Best New Poets, Best of the Net, Copper Nickel, Yale Review, and New Ohio Review. Recently a recipient of the Inprint Verlaine Prize in Poetry and the Editor-in-Chief of Gulf Coast, Justin lives in Houston, where he is pursuing his Ph.D.


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