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[Poetry] Five Poems by West Ambrose


do not go

and stay on land, do not be a

teacher, do not marry a woman,

do not stay

in your sickbed

in Illyria and perish there.

Do not listen to the gruff voice

of any man; the gentle-gruff voice save

Antonio, of course, with his open

purse and his honest past and his sea-torn

opened by your warming glance—

Do not say Yes to a life that’s so landlocked;

do not drown under waves that aren’t

the blue and salt-slicked width

of sailors’ tongues. Do not die young. Do not

do not do not do not do not do not

end your story with a wedding

my boy, you have so many errant plays

left to helm in your Beauty.


in my/Disobedience/my taste for blood/oranges and dark wine/pooling waves/crushing and levitating/my loose robes and tingling flesh/my pith and peel and carpel/dainty wrist/Roman boy/laying out in the sun/soaking/sweet flutes in the ears of/Campeche and calico and conch/the concertina’s lilac/over the gold/the way juice drips/onto salt/and the way/salt drips onto/lips/a rim/of a glass/circling swans/lush and white/landing on the ripples/spheres and arrows/the annular nature of vines and beach plums/red heather and ravishing doldrums/free-floating/with my arms above my head/and my dorsals/silk as ribbons/of drift/unbound/and to think/once I insisted/this was being stranded

That’s how I spend my nights lately,

pulling another rusted hook from my chest,

crying until the horizon knows it

and everyone else does, too;

No matter how much armor plates these limbs,

inside I’m bleeding baby blue.

The spurned seafoam

burns slate into the oncoming tide

and pisciform metamorphoses

cannot save the skinned flesh

that we were so desperate to shed.

Swim to me, he said, and I held

my breath until it was the only thing

I could do; broke the coastline

and my back and shivered baby blue.

Drowned myself, that’s what I should have done.

(For years now it has felt like drowning

to walk on land and not miss the sea.)

He was never happier than when we

went sailing and touched his calloused

hands to the bruises on my hips; I hate this

wretched body, he said. Oh my fucking god,

I said, me, too. As he nestled beside me

in the hull of our Hell

until I gasped out his name

with liquid profanity,

the perfect fluidity of baby blue.

And there goes the ebb; six hundred

letters buried and lost, accruing direst,

signed with Dearest, creating embers for Eternal

cold fires that collect no dust. And here comes

the flow: a pretty coffin with no one

in it, as my hands create a whirlpool

out of all the moonbeams

we’ll never chase into morning;

into meandering, into something strange

and new; and all alone my heart sinks

in that vast chasm, another piece of

beach glass shattered, a shard of baby blue.

In the night, when stars wash up,

streaking, shrinking, shriveling

until they die, to the surface floats

my epitaph;

one last wish to be precious

the way a grain of sand


by rings of aragonite and concholin

becomes a part of the same shell,

becomes the sacred mantle of the very self

that creates it; becomes the way you hold me in dreams,

and my dreams become the color of everything I swore true;

kiss and question and sharp quick shudder;

you’ll put your arms around me

until we’re together through and through,

and catch me breathless baby blue.


You cannot see me being Beautiful,

lifting myself up

and pulling at the

tides of air; tiny water-barer,

lithe, glittering, omantic wind-spirit

that no one will catch

gilding the water’s edge, a crest of frost in early December.

You don’t see

there’s no celebration without Freedom– that I missed this

bodiless body, saintless beatitude, blind seer,



the lone, silver arrows of the moon. One day I’ll go home, I tell myself

up there, knowing

Home is a flower

that blooms in seven hundred

petals scattered across Time,

and wilts once preserved

in Memory. I suppose this is why

Romeo and Juliet will never move me—

Here I am,

counting breaths

to arias of the sky,

slicking the fluid light of

stars against Nothingness,

soaring, still soaring

while letting tears

slide through

my opened palms, falling,

still falling for the sound of a staff

snapped in half,

each time I don’t return.

Excerpt: An Essay On the Imagination of Water

Raucous stars This dark and gale-sighs

stipple blue fathomlessness; scour eager leaves,

the new crescent’s pale lips. tungsten- curled damp and languid,

velvet lounging ere the sonder’s



(Everything we have heard, we have heard once in our dreams; cicadas’ susurration, mist clung to craning necks of daffodils, lighting-scuff and pallid rabbit feet in hushed grass, the successive thuds of paint-peeled window ledges, neighboured and afar.

Everything is an image

we once ate

whole and unripening;

Everything we have loved, we have loved before.)

Tell me again the first drink of a wish, the thirst for gentleness

all the names you give to the rain long, sweet milk unraveling night

from your thread-bound perch; in clear sips, ingale, neptune, and

swooning iris…

(Everything we have tasted, we have tasted once in our dreams; nectar, cordials, dusk-swept names, ferritin-laced claret; viola strings, lotus-spun silk and fingertips; sonata in a spilling, silver tap; rivulets, costa vera, rococo painting smeared with steam.)

Before the infinity of the sea, there, the bead the story catches up with the dream,

the narration of the myth, of starlight, incan the dream finally

the myth of the dream; descent in that beveled

sip; nourished,

the parched tongue remembers…

(Everything we have touched, we have touched once in our dreams; feathers, bifocals, chemicals and ash; streams, olive branches, Geneva, Venice, and coastal red sands; the palms of your hands out-stretched to mine, the Haliacmonic swim from shore to sun-bracketed shore; Hypno’s yawning embrace; and everything we have loved, we have loved before.)

West Ambrose is a writer and grad student. Their pronouns are he/him and they/them. They are trans, queer, and disabled/chronically ill. They are fascinated by the works of Herman Melville and in their free time love to find weird old teapots and make granola bars that are both vegan and duck friendly. Their twitter is @westofcanon and their website is where you can find their creative works inspired by antiquity and classic lit.


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