Rae Gouirand

What We Mean

(when we attempt to explain on another’s
behalf: ‘what she meant was—’)

(or, on our own behalf, when we interrupt:
‘I didn’t—’)

(or hear ‘what’s that supposed to mean’
against ‘I don’t know what that means’—)

(—it’s only the hands we see in our minds
redistributing the air we speak into)

(—not even words simultaneous face
to face mean the same)

(I don’t know why what rings definite
can suddenly subtract the gist,

turn silence absence, strike
lines through all sense)

(can’t even begin to split
mouth, mind—)

(once settled an argument by turning to
the dictionary, caused a fight)

On Rereading My Journal

When I turn pages back
to the morning after we first touched,

when I read again the words yet
hot, yet unclothed, I am

made shy by the sudden
intimacy—the hand of the naked girl

who’s speaking from a flame
to the stirring in herself absolutely—

she is absolute, and I may have lost
that, and while I blur after

her voice, I must admit I also
don’t want her to know I’m here,

or even to admit I exist, half-forgotten,
further down her ink-bold line.

I think of myself as I think
of a bowl—all the water burned out

so it might hold water. All its space
given shape. There is something,

I suppose, to this echo
that does more than restore her hand—

there is the scent of her heat
under my nose, the stirring in the cell

remembering. There is the lesson
of feeling so dense it makes

a flow of bone around it.
Perhaps that is all I know

that she does not: that passion
on her inside

may forget its expression
but cannot forget itself.

It returns to me as I read,
joins me to her pulse. I come to feel

her fit; she inhabits. We lean
toward each other as each other alone,

hearts beating one on top the other,
moving our tongue in our throat.

Author Portrait

Rae Gouirand’s first collection of poetry, Open Winter, was selected by Elaine Equi for the 2011 Bellday Prize, won a 2012 Independent Publisher Book Award, and the 2012 Eric Hoffer Book Award, and was a finalist for the Montaigne Medal, the Audre Lorde Award, and the California Book Award for poetry. Her poems and essays have appeared in American Poetry Review, Boston Review, Columbia, Seneca Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, and many other journals, as well as two recent volumes of the Best New Poets series. An adjunct lecturer in the Department of English at University of California, Davis, Creative Nonfiction Editor for California Northern Magazine, and Director of the Keywords Workshop for teen writers at the Sacramento Gay & Lesbian Center, she lives in Davis, California.

View the website of Rae Gouirand