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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. Maiden, their debut poetry collection, is out on Vegetarian Alcoholic Press. They earned an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers. You can find more about them at

Contemplating Happiness While Listening to Janet Jackson

It’s all for you              a sparked ember         against the wayward cheek.

             The middle of my chest aches                        in the evening like a great song,

like a wild vine placed through all this tempo,                       stretched across the soft

candle of thin breath. Me, being me, I leap forward at the sound of purposeful ecstasy.

I dream all the bubbles loose in some warm bath water        surrounding by candles

             maybe some other naked man—

I am contemplating what it means to light joy up, being aware of its complications:

                          like how sometimes the brain stops its flight.

I am contemplating the erasure of wounds,    like how they are never erased.

What bruise is coming to the surface?            How I like to rub the tender spot to feel aching.

The way joy goes it sparks, it ignites.                The way love goes,     it may follow after joy.

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