by K. Iver
K. Iver is a nonbinary poet born in Mississippi. They have received a Ph.D. in Poetry at Florida State University. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in Boston Review, BOAAT, Gulf Coast, Puerto del Sol, Split Lip, and elsewhere. They are the 2021-2022 Ronald Wallace Poetry Fellow for the University of Wisconsin Creative Writing Institute.
If you were here the Mississippi
would still run south. Would still
drop its griefs into the Gulf where
our friends would still swim
in summer. Water would touch us
like water. If you were here
the river that is your body would
not move magically. While
it emptied from the bladder’s
headwaters, from tear ducts
& pores, public officials would
still turn the fact of your body
into arguments. You might’ve
struck the impos- sible: surgery,
a new name, your own boat, &
someone beautiful to name it after.
Someone beautiful & their baby.
From one dormroom landline to
another, your wishlist sounded like
a fairytale. Like grow- ing a merman’s
fin between classes. I thought we
were playing pretend when you said
Goodnight Tinkerbell & I said the boy’s
name you wanted secret. Even then
strangers spoke to a boy when speaking
to you. That was twenty years ago,
the list already a plan, already gliding
an undercurrent sprung twenty
years before that. If you were here,
still drinking cold tea in a cold diner,
men in state capitol conference rooms
hours down the high- way would still
draft bathroom laws for adults. Your
mother would still sneak taffeta & silk
in your closet of fatigues & say
she loved you. I wouldn’t imagine
your capillaries reassembling. If you
were still dying like the rest of us,
I wouldn’t tell a young ghost how
far we’ve come as if I believed how
far we’ve come was enough. Wouldn’t
worry about who else gets more
than 27 years. Your body wasn’t
a national-average. You wanted more
than safety. But I didn’t wake
sore in the jaw until I heard the
numbers. Until a nation, an entire
nation, couldn’t offer an alibi.
Missy, my grief is righteous
& problematic. It floods the last
four walls hold- ing you & begs
for time. It hurls absurd reasons
from a future: a handful of non-cis
film stars human- izing a handful of
non-cis characters. Better doctors.
My grief says it’s helping but argues
only for me. The relief, the micro-
second of relief when I achieve
the unexpected & hope you find out.
This means I forget you’re gone.
This makes my grief a loose dam.
Still, I talk to water that unrivered
your body for dirt. I float fantasies
of dirt that holds us up. Longer.
I say to the water if you were here,
you’d be here.