In the last days, we press our dirty bodies together
A new kind of prayer—and I am asking you
To be honest with me,
I am asking for truth. I give to you my last cigarette
The knuckles on my left hand
The feeling in my arm that you lie on
When you sleep. Pins and needles spread
To my head and neck.
There is so much we won’t do. I give you instead
The hair on my legs,
The air in my lungs,
My sacrament. In this quiet apartment
When you are not here—
I pencil out my final wishes in keyboard strokes.
We tell each other secrets in the light of the kitchen lamp.
Image: “Intimate” by Adam Heath, licensed under CC 2.0.
I think about God a lot. I’m not really a believer, but I do believe in ritual. There is something ritualistic about writing—the act of sitting down every day to do the same activity. I think that’s where this poem comes from; the ritualistic act of prayer, the idea of sacrifice for the greater good. It’s about everyday sacrifices, the little things you can give to people that they might not even necessarily want, but you give anyway because they’re what you have.
This poem was written during the first few days of the COVID-19 crisis. I was visiting a friend of mine, for spring break, in Tampa Florida, from my home in New York City. We were both sort of shell-shocked about the whole situation—I was convinced I was getting sick already (which I wasn’t), and he was in total denial that anything bad was happening. We were both trying to reassure each other that everything was okay. In a way, this poem is a gift to him. I felt like I had nothing to offer except for my writing, so I wrote this poem. I’m a big believer in poems as gifts.