A Journal

"I'm going to come back to West Virginia when this is over. There's something ancient and deeply-rooted in my soul. I like to think that I have left my ghost up one of those hollows, and I'll never really be able to leave for good until I find it. And I don't want to look for it, because I might find it and have to leave".----Breece D'J Pancake, in a letter to his mother. 

Justin Wymer 


Dear E., 


Much talk here lately of sorcery and the terrible moment one halts in the middle of
the street after spotting another who’s seen him disrobed, fuzzed and gawky as
a robin just emerged from the blue. Nakedness as flashback, preverbal flickering on
the tongue and the lips ajar, etc. It has been a long while since I’ve felt a use for my
flesh, and so I’m pitiless, and so I am your witness, alien and bemused as a skunk in
the vicinity of an orange-peel. 

Recent discussions with friends: the succulent crunch of fat crisped on pig roasted in
the mud of Louisiana; satisfaction at the contrast of that spiced cream when it meets
the sinew. The drowsy-frenetic pressure of a snail running underpalm when the hand
is placed lightly on the shell. Vegan childrearing, gestation as morally dubious, animal
took of animal, and the like. 

It’s two hours till dawn. Sometimes I like to think my breath feathers out from its
initial steam in chill November and enters the creases between the limbs of brittle,
sanguine leaves, warming them, affixing them longer. Even now I can’t keep from
folding the edges of the page, in the belief a brevity peels at a slower rate.

In certain extinguishing hours of the day I feel aggressively lovely—washed in skin-
colored light strained through the curtain.


Yours, J



So far from every recorded murder

              Accident, the coal canary’s news

I mean nothing everywhere I wasn’t born
I build my hut with skeins of nerve

               Between the sorrel rain

When I am a body I let silences be
Silences let skin be sudden

                The body continues
When it enters into anything

I shall my body be
                   no souvenir


In León, Spain, I was walking through these snaking medieval streets with someone who wanted to buy me a gift. There was a woman selling bracelets, very plain, no more than pieces of tanned hide. She grabbed my wrist, measured it using her braid, cut the leather to the appropriate length, and tied it on me. I wore it for years until it finally fell off. It’s my favorite souvenir because it reminds me of a time when someone found me as a wanderer and paid to have some stake in the pulse of me.

A native of West Virginia, Justin Wymer holds degrees from Harvard University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Beecher's, Boston Review, Conjunctions, Lana Turner, Nat. Brut, The Harvard Divinity Bulletin, THRUSH, and elsewhere. He's currently working on a project about apocryphal angels.