Niche Shift

CW: abuse, blood, needles, homophobia. Note: this poem is viewed best on desktop or tablet.

   Proboscis monkeys with cocks for noses screech in search
    of mates, frowning full-fathom-5 months later as their children
    flirt with crocodile jaws from low branches. Cut off from you, I,
      like Borneo after glacial melt sunk its jagged land bridges,
                develop highly specialized forms of life
            that make little sense outside of isolation.
            I fry eggs atop spinach salads at midnight,
              grade papers and argue about consent
                    on Grindr until 1 AM, masturbate
            listening to China Miéville audiobooks or dreaming
          of binge eating crunch wrap supremes, light incense to gods
                no one’s worshipped in millennia. I am a fat-bottomed
        pitcher plant catching what I can in my wide mouth.
        Together, we grew at the speed of Mount Kinabalu—5
          millimeters per year—but alone I have suffered
      “a sea change, into something rich and strange,” drowned
        in my own disappointment. Each year the sky weeps
                    a Pacific Ocean’s worth of rain over Borneo.
                I’ll let that sink in.                 Somewhere, a sea change.
    Warm winter days I swear,                  Tonight will be the night
I’ll really stop comparing this                 genuine climate crisis
  to my personal life.
Midnight              strikes. Invariably, I am
    wrong. Somewhere, eyes become pearls; bones become coral.
          Somewhere, barnacles creep up the shell of someone’s home
          as they lose it to the rising sea. Somewhere, you are abusing
                  someone else. Here, I envision who I’ll become
                when the glacial flood recedes and I am out
                      in the world wearing all the weird clothes
                I bought to get me through quarantine: fake pearls,
              vegan leathers, thigh-high stilettos, a necklace of baby
            dolls cast in pewter, spiked loafers I imagine wearing
                when someone mugs me so I can tear him open
                for what you did to me, a sequined spandex two-piece.
                    The only fast thing about my fashion is the speed
                  with which I regret it when I don’t hit Buy.
            The only fast thing about a glacier is the thunder crack
        of its breaking or how quickly—geophysically speaking—
        man spread his heat to shrink it. The only fast thing about us
        was how quickly I let you shrink me or the speed with which
              you claimed I traumatized you when, at last, I broke
                  away. In time life will grow “rich and strange”
        when the last glaciers melt and the deserts spread,
        but you never did want to talk about the future,
the reckoning, the day land bridge becomes ocean
                            ridge and forest, thriving, becomes

Jacob Budenz is a queer writer, multi-disciplinary performer, educator, and witch with an MFA from University of New Orleans and a BA from Johns Hopkins whose work focuses on the intersection of the other and the otherworldly. The author of PASTEL WITCHERIES (Seven Kitchens Press 2018), Budenz has current and forthcoming work in journals including Entropy, Wussy Mag, and Slipstream as well as anthologies by Mason Jar Press and Unbound Edition.

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