Measuring Distance | Justin Holliday

I wish I were dead
is a perfect example of subjunctive mood.
What most people don’t realize
is how to conjugate the body
to expose how it feels to hold on
to improper objects. Psychologists call this
introjection. To engage with a man, 
I must deny any sign 
I want to touch him. 
If I were to tell the truth,
I would explain fewer people
know how to use their hands properly,
their body’s grammar always slightly off.
I was engaged to the same man
for four years before we married, 
and everyone could see 
the rainbow-studded ring he gave me
if they looked closely enough. The signs 
all pointed that I needed him violently,
would kill to breach the distance between
our awkward bodies gesticulating. 
And the truth is
the adverb is the weakest part of speech,
but how do I describe not just what my man did
but how he did it to me? I can’t hold it all in
nor can I let go of the will 
to modify the body, the sentence. It is for life:
twining across him like our matching tattoos, 
his indelible admission, my shaking hand
as if I myself had held the needle
yet unable to avoid the outcome.


Justin Holliday is an English lecturer and poet. His work has appeared in Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Impossible Archetype, Fire Poetry, SCAB, Subsync’s Poem of the Month, and elsewhere.

Vagabond City Literary Journal

Founded in 2013, we are a literary journal dedicated to publishing outsider literature. We publish art, poetry, and creative nonfiction from marginalized creators.