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You have those damn bony hands my father
Cries out anytime I sock him in the meat
Of his bicep that insensitive stretch of muscle
That invites pain as a form of communion
Punishment our love language since I was a boy
When he’d pin me to the bed and feather-
Hover his fingers over my giggling ribs
My no-no-nos exploding into pure pleasure
Of a kind I haven’t known have longed for
Ever since my fingers curling into a fist
When what I want is the weight of him
Against me the jags of my knuckles striking deep
Below the surface trying to say what I can’t
I know no other way to love you than to hurt you



Nicholas Pierce’s recent work has appeared in 32 Poems, AGNI, The Hopkins Review, and Subtropics. His first collection, In Transit (Criterion), won the 2021 New Criterion Poetry Prize.




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