Asylum Linguistics

SM Stubbs

It turns out the word “fornicate” used to mean
          an arched or vaulted form, as if two bodies

bent by heat could carry the weight of the sky.
          One root suggests “brothel,” another means

a “domed shape” or “covered way.” Roman
          prostitutes solicited business under the arches

of certain buildings which is why one of the
          Bible’s authors linked the location to adultery.

I’d ask him about the importance of contact,
          skin to skin, the manner in which we most

reveal ourselves. I’d ask him if he knew how to
          define love or the four elements of a fractured

selfhood. I’d tell him: we are poisoned through
          our mouths, the center of half our sins. Without

evidence we don’t really know what we know.
          How far will we fall? As far as language allows.

Until recently, SM Stubbs co-owned a bar in Brooklyn. Recipient of a scholarship to Bread Loaf; nominated for the Pushcart and Best New Poets; winner of the 2019 Rose Warner Poetry Prize from The Freshwater Review. His work has appeared in numerous magazines, including Poetry Northwest, Puerto del Sol, Carolina Quarterly, New Ohio Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, Crab Creek Review, December, and The Rumpus.

© Variant Literature Inc 2021