Weird Love: Two Poems from I Think I'm Ready to See Frank Ocean by Shayla Lawson



You would have been / my first kiss if you hadn’t always / beat me in Street Fighter.  I wanted to be / Chun-Li—sometimes / Guile (for the back story)—or Dhalsim: I’d still call myself pacifist / KO-ing heavyweights in my elastic / limbs.  I expelled most of grammar / school in an arcade attached to the Regal Cinema 6 at the mall adults stopped going to, or running boys down wild during recess / trying to punch them in the face.  Even when I had your blush-wet cheek / pinned to the cinnabar, dew-on-asphalt, I only wanted you to understand / what I heard behind my eyelids: the color Goethe attributes to the {energetic : crude : robust}.   I paint the town / yellowred—a troupe of children left to their own harlequin devices— love is the game of the {young : nostalgic : grotesque}. Of all this, I am plenty. My lips spare no vermillion. I hadouken Ryu’s gee back to his tape deck.







There ain’t no love songs for women.  Only little boys
who shimmy out their father’s
vintage. They sing to wood-paneled living

rooms & masturbate harmonies on rehearsed vinyl
the thought of halter tops, ponytails, & tight jeans.
And sometimes, young ladies

get replaced by Vaseline tubs beside laptop
cameras, (as evidenced by “Dancing to Pony Alone”)
an entire Tumblr feed of ostensible

melancholy. It’s like all young men
are Icarus; a catalogue of sons crooning
to the lyric of their self

-destruction. I bring breakfast; you battle at me
with your latest lyric. When I listen, I want to disrobe
only your goatee & your gap-toothed grin

grows visible like are trying to get one over
on an Isley record.  Of course, I’d let you
I say to the most popular

pronoun in Top 40 music. I sing “you”
in vibrato—I want you
so much.  But, as often true, the second-person,

just can’t decide / if this is love song
about heart break or hearts broke
so you can keep up with women

to record about. Hallelujah: only a songwriter believes
the best way into a lover’s heart is to tell you
all your secrets in public.  I never

use your name. I switch the color of the shag carpet
from beige to brindle in the voice-over. When our song comes on
I try not to get all Rhythm / & Depressed.

Shayla Lawson is a professional educator, recreational acrobat, and a member of the Affrilachian Poets. Her work has appeared in The Journal, Colorado Review, 111O and MiPOesias. She is the author of A Speed Education in Human Being (Sawyer House Press, 2013) and PANTONE (forthcoming from MIEL Books, 2016). She teaches writing for Mississippi University for Women and Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts.