When Nick gives us the chapbooks I, like everyone else, take it out of its Ziploc and lick it. I lick too hard, with childish gusto. The letters of “YES” are lemonade mix glued to the cover, and my Y is blotched with a wet tongueprint—temporary, but obvious in the moment.
Later all of us splayed out on two hotel beds reading our stories, poems, and in-betweens. After I say and this sadness shall not prevail against it Nick kissbites my shoulder. It is really wonderful. There are so many places and gatherings of persons where doing even a little too much of the right thing is wrong. Their Yesses are not written in all caps, have no taste in their mouths or yours.
* * *
Sometimes this poem holds my face in both of its hands and it’s almost too much to handle.
All this is a fist full of telephones
filled with the same immense voicemail,
an almost translucent string of sounds
resembling light more than language,
the basic message being: I feel fucking yes.
My heart making out with your heart in the mist
of sprinklers. our hips secret beaches sweet
with nonsense and campfire smoke and an illimitable
unspoken feeling that regardless of this being
a complete mistake it is, in fact, complete,
and amidst the ongoing collapse of laughter
my head fills with something that is not control
in favor of reciting sunflowers on some wet wet
interstate perhaps not so far from here where
this system is neverending sufficiently and I
might fall asleep in your daffodils with a smile
smashed against my face.
I mean just, Jesus—did you read that? At a reading I read at recently, another reader—a poet—talked about how he didn’t want to hear about some poet’s feelings and telling a former professor this story I half-jokingly addressed the guy: “Oh man, you are gonna hate the next forty-five minutes; I mean, you better get ready to frown.”
But really, what are you doing in the space of a poetry reading or reading poetry if you’re not looking to encounter a heap of somebody else’s vital, genuine something? Yes language and form and so on but if it’s not serving some central vehicle of a desire to express then why should anyone give a sincere fuck?
Disconnect and detachment are easy to find and harmful, and I’m just not interested. Poems like this one, running and reveling like a goddamn stampede of joy are a huge part of why I’m consuming poems at all.
* * *
One night when I was fifteen I pressed my forehead to the rear right window of my friend Tina’s packed purple Camry and promised myself with all the fierce purity of a teenage promise that I would not forget that moment, the cold dew-dappled glass. We were surrounded by southern Indiana swells and corn ransacked by fireflies. I knew my heart was full in a way that seemed wrecked or exhausted out of most people I knew past a certain age.
Reading I FEEL YES is a small sadness in one way, in that its unabashed revelry makes apparent to me the myriad of little wrecks, tiny collapsings that have worked their way into me and people I love over the ensuing near-decade, how easy it was to get far removed from that precious internal space, because the ecstasy of it can seem distant. But it’s also an incredible joy, a lightning storm of wonderful news, in that one route back is so easily, poignantly available: a poem written and physically given to you by a friend. This is the best kind of grace, the kind knotted messily to you by a heart in a body with a mouth that can bite you, gently, that can tell you Yes.