jermaine simpson

These Bodies Unto Us

When I first glimpsed you across the Quad,
               your chest pressed against a cotton v-neck and so
                              much of your collarbone to behold,
I was in love with a man on fire.
Your legs make me want to watch you walk away,
     into an open soccer field where a graying man more
          commonly mistaken for a wizard, might be running
in shorts that could’ve been Wilt Chamberlain’s own.
Your voice intoxicates after a night of blackberry kosher table wine,
when hands are slipping into need, resting clumsily on my body, he is only
                              building momentum with his right hand and a slow dance to the left.

It’s an honest sway, I’m-tipsy-on-a-Thursday night kind of magic.
               Into the darkness we stumble, your shoulders are Mayan ruins
i’m constantly fixated on. When we wrestle, our bones become
     folklore or ash or atoms i’m bent on believing were supernatural.
                    Your high cheeks could pass for royalty so when i’m in the produce section
at Ingles, I’m not looking at the purple cabbage or eggplant, or the woman who just
                    tossed some deli food on the floor. I’m thinking of tomatoes bursting from their skins,
a sweet juice engulfing us both. Your leg suffocating my leg.
Your waist waging war under a thin blanket. We are fighting the good fight.
                              Your body makes my body want to surrender, become the cliche
at the end of a party where two boys are standing on a ledge
and then there is one.

These Lost Hopes

At two in the morning, it is only Joe and I
Who breach the bench, our designated smoking spot.
I assume we both seek the salvation of dying men.
In my bag, there is a Gaelic Ale I’ve been saving,
one of those imported beers I only get to drink on my birthday
or when I have time off or when i’m not being a real fucker.
And tonight, my callow hands won’t pull off the whole opening
a bottle with a lighter trick, so I pass it into
hands who are wiser than my own, and eager to try.

As the amber ale escapes down our throats,
we are only dying to break the silence,
so I answer when he asks, What was your day like?
My morning like mimosas in the middle of a dirt
road where I might have been standing once, but
I dropped the champagne, and ran away.
And before lunchtime, how transporting
newly dropped off deck wood from one pallet
to the next held me hostage to the sweat pooling
underneath a black shirt I’d forgotten to change.

When We Breathe

While we are here, tell again how your grandfather split
Log after log, his
Overextended limbs
Swinging with the force that carried him North.

Tell me how he carried a family a thousand miles
Away from routine, ritual, and a round table
That sat five comfortably.

Tell me how that led me to you, our pasts
Almost polar opposites, but still so much alike
In the way of family that we emulate each other’s actions,

Movements that continue to pattern themselves
After racy encounters,
Our shirts in a pile, shorts taking
Refuge under covers where there can not
See our naked bodies, but know we are breathing


Jermaine Simpson says, “I started writing because I didn’t have the answers. I write to assure myself of my existance. Being born in New York and having to move to the South at an early age, made me aware of the dramatic differences that life may offer. My work has appeared in Aerie International, The New Mexico Poetry Review, and the Raleigh Review. I’m a writing major at Warren Wilson College and I wash dishes in my spare time and I am happy. I am a 2010 graduate of the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities.”