Don’t Forget to Call Your Mother & Other Poems

travis tate

Shaking Bodies on a Towel Near the Water

The river before anything else, the glazed sun emerging
gently from evening. You, brightly looking towards what
I hope is me or, some future tense self where I’m dangling
slightly less from crisp edges. I’m all in-tuned, harmonic.
Your beaded breath on my neck in the morning, not like
beautiful but your stale mouth close to my ear. Quick
horizon made from our bodies lying close & the damned
buildings spiked up from the concrete. I see us in our
dizzy haze, walking close, shaking our bodies in each
others directions, seeing my parents, eating food from
a plate we share on the veranda, our bungalow. I want the
river in me to keep running, make a beard of the bramble,
rocks slick me up, throw me forward & am I brave enough?
Are you constant in your shaking? The riverbed is small,
something growing away from each of us, riverlets or,
more accurately, estuaries, gliding simply towards the sea.

Don’t Forget to Call Your Mother

I call my mother on the phone
& she often is listening for the
crack in my voice, to rise from
my throat – my favourite thing,
a small bird. She says she can
only imagine & that means she’s
been trying to live somewhere in-
side me, that makes me happy.
Spirit, rising from the feet, is
what makes any of this worth
it, like any of this occupiable.
Is that rough to say? My arm
wants to be around my mother.
My heart wants to be some place
where the salt meets the earth
of your face. I want nothing,
a spot of land to watch the sun
move slowly, mountain, wet
heat of Arizona. My mother says
goodbye, while she watches
the TV, complains to my sister
about ordering too much food
to the house. There are animals,
scorpions weathering the back-
yard – like they’re regular
things, not something born with
swords on their backs, ready to
fight something or to take back
their home. My mother always
wakes from her dreams, steady.
But I don’t have any, not here.


America is hungry for my bones, deep gnawing at the marrow.

I’m hungry for a lover who’s smarter than me but loves me anyway.

We have built the erasure of ourselves.

No – we were tricked like pulled honey.

                The pipeline was cradled in the earth like dark gems.

Even in daylight, I turn my back to make sure no one is behind,

thick stalk of blonde skin, violent, unkind, a mystery – even to itself.

              I pray.

              The tongue, my scripture. Get on your knees. Open.

A History

I walked the front of the wicked earth like a violet lily,

reaching up between whatever demon I was drowning in.

I run.

            Yesterday, I couldn’t breathe. & we’re all thinking:

please lift        praying to the lungs.

I wish I’m as deadly as the demon.

            I sprint across the valley that is made of whatever linen

my father’s summer suit is made of, whatever felt the pimp’s hat.

I saunter to you in your dreams, upon the pillow, to your lips.

Each breath is a history, a creation of all the plausible things

I can do each day, each morning – if i choose to rise like a man

– if I valley into my stomach, waiting for the ridges of it to flatten out

– if I look like my mother’s last breath.

What history is, if anything, but time colliding in our mouths.

travis tate is a queer, black playwright, poet and performer from Austin, Texas. Their poetry has appeared in Borderlands:Texas Poetry Review, Underblong, Mr. Ma’am, apt, and Cosmonaut Avenue, among other journals. Their debut poetry collection, Maiden, is available on Vegetarian Alcoholic Press. They earned an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers. You can find more about them at


*Image by Mòje Ikpeme

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