Leila Chatti

Now That You Are Gone

I walk the shore and kiss a man and all is black—the sand, the sky, the water

          gnawing toward me, black.

I say I’ve never seen anything more beautiful and can’t see a thing.

Your name washes up like glass, the edges dulled.

Your name brine in the eye of my mouth.

My grief slow and plodding, as many times I’ve struggled against the surf.

Your face an image bled by time and water.

I float and call it survival.

I swallow the salt of a man and call it love.

I try to write but my language bleeds before it reaches you.

I try to write but my language bleeds.

My grief an image. My mouth dulled.

I try to write you are gone, many years but slip—

          you are gone, many tears.



Do you remember, when you wanted
to fuck me, you wrote the word
undulate? So the waves appear

all vulgar to me now.
I watched once
a video of boys

moving like water
over a sofa, the floor, walls, looking
to prove themselves

lovers with nothing
to love. Maybe you

were like this—devoted
to the verb without
context, without a body

to wash up against.
Here, even the air
ripples. You can see it

writhing on
the horizon. If you look long enough
you can see in it

anything you wish.


Leila Chatti Tunisian-American poet, and the 2017-2018 Ron Wallace Poetry Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received fellowships and awards from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Tin House Writers’ Workshop, The Frost Place, Dickinson House, and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, and prizes from Ploughshares’ Emerging Writer’s Contest, Narrative Magazine’s 30 Below Contest, and the Academy of American Poets. She is the author of the chapbooks Ebb (New-Generation African Poets Series, forthcoming 2018) and Tunsiya/Amrikiya, the 2017 Editor's Selection from Bull City Press (forthcoming 2018), and her work appears in Best New Poets, Ploughshares, Tin House, New England Review, The Georgia Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Narrative, West Branch, The Rumpus, and elsewhere.