Leander He

sea otters hold hands in their sleep

as if saying
this will not be the river hero & leander drowned in,

so let this little story be something more than survival,
please? i finally want to learn how to want to live:

adrift but afloat, making a daisy chain of short &
slender fingers. now’s as good a time as any for us

to sink or swim or sleep, sweetly, over the river
beds where oleanders bloom in spring (we can weave

those too), & i tell you not to worry. if god sends
a flood after us in our nightmares we’ll still be clinging &

careening down these submerged streets together,
waiting for the world to lose power after dark—

then let’s lay lazily here in stilling waters &
with a free hand each we can point out the stars?

after the flood

in april, we leave an apple on your nightstand for days. and keep
forgetting to carry it from your bedroom to dump it outside. only

when the shiny flesh crumples into a sickly gray do i finally take care
of it, afraid it would make our hands wrinkle too. i vow to cry less

in the shower for the sake of my skin. but six months later when
you say i made a mistake for the first time, your eyes peel me until

i am naked, blemished. once in your dream we drowned together,
our bodies tangled on the river bed, and still i thought we could

keep away the rot. as long as you held me? but now you tell me we
should worry. that we’re dying anyway, that i never learned how to

swim, mentioning nothing of how in my dream i watch someone else
tread water for you, with no body of my own. you cut me loose for this

mere chance to surface. yet i can imagine the river swallowing your tears,
creasing your fingertips. the same way my skin still cracks every morning.

Leander He is a queer Chinese poet, reclaiming love in meaningless things. Originally from New York, he reads poetry submissions for The Yale Review and studies linguistics as an undergraduate at Yale University.