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Nathan Tompkins

The Name

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Unfold my fingers, from the pleats
stitched into my palms, his initial
branded along my lifeline.

I wish I could leave it behind me,
scrub it away beneath whiskey faucets,
skip those letters from the tips
of my fingernails across the river,

but no amount of liquor dreams,
no amount of black tattoo ink
will cover this shame beneath
a portrait on my living canvas,

no amount of the hourglass’ sand
will polish his face from my eyes,
the way his glasses dangled on his nose,
or his naked body handcuffing my life,
burning his name into my palm.


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Lying in stagnant waters,
filthy with the blood
mutilated fantasies,
feeling the minutes,
the seconds drown
beneath the green sludge
settled on the listless surface.

They say you can never touch
the same goddamn river twice,
but this is a spider web dangling
from dishonest tongues,

as the water never changes,
feet grounded in the mud,
as it sucks, inch by waterlogged inch
til only the lips can rise
above the swamp, inhale
death’s rancid breath.

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