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autumn/winter 2016

Scared of Beautiful
by Shayla Lawson

The look in his eye said he was imagining what it might be like to be in another place — perhaps what it might be like to be another person, a person people didn’t need.--Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib

​How blue is the Ocean: blue as the word
we did not know we did not notice, blue

as the reflection that rains through sea 
& heaven, as the scent of dye on a body 
upon one’s own, its beatific sex 
petulant as the fat of honey--water
the dye that drowns: deep red. How 

blue is the ocean when we do not see
the Ocean: when the Ocean is no longer
a land we need. We know that kind 
of water is a lonely place--no real 
distinction between odyssey 
& abandon. We trek the wine
-dark sea, & parse between the taste
of a wave we know & a pain we can’t

articulate. How blue is the ocean when we       cannot see blue: so caught in the chrysalis        

of our own tongues we have not formed
a distinction between what is spectacle 
& what is shadow--dispersing into nothing
altogether, the void, a vapor of how we yet
see ourselves, that we are each bodies

of water. How blue is the Ocean
when it is the only way of mentioning 

our own abandon :: somewhere there is 
a boy whispering into the shroud of himself
an echo he pulls from the gulf of his throat 
like a seahorse; the lie of laughter.
He asks, how blue was 

the Ocean when we did not know the Ocean at all:
only salt & silt, their colors imaginary: like birds
that jolt pall lightning through the sky.

Shayla Lawson ( is the author of the chapbook PANTONE (Miel Books, 2016) and the forthcoming I Think I'm

Ready to See Frank Ocean (Saturnalia Books, 2018). She has written for SalonESPNGuernica, and The Offing.

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