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“Strays” is one of several uncollected poems included in my forthcoming book Blue Laws: Selected & Uncollected Poems 1995–2015. Made up as the poem is of fragments and outtakes from my 2003 book, Jelly Roll: A Blues, the title “Strays” refers to its form, but may best describe the poem’s feeling. As the poem’s sections increase in length—going from three lines, to four, to five, and upward from there—the speaker’s relationship with the beloved seems to wane, to stray away.
You could call the leaps in the poem leaps of faith, filled with the speaker’s wishes—“I want your hands blurry / over me”—that don’t quite seem to work out. Instead, the poem becomes a monument to what’s lost, admitting “only you / sleep somewhere else.” The wish and half-rhyme (of “time” and “name”) is what remains.


The moon of you

I want to meet—
faraway, waning.


Asleep in the sun
of your arms

then cold
when you’re gone.


In the dark where we
can no longer see

I want your hands blurry
over me, reading

the braille of my body.


Your narcotic touch.
Your such & such

makes me rush
home through dark

slick streets & hush
to our bright

too-hot house—only you
sleep somewhere else.


I miss you like a monument
misses its dead—

the stone heads
staring, the hands

stiff, or still,

by time. Tell me
& I’ll write what you want

near my name

Kevin Young is the author of ten books of poetry and prose, including Jelly Roll: A Blues, a finalist for the National Book Award. Blue Laws is forthcoming from Knopf in February 2016. He is the Candler Professor of Creative Writing and English and the curator of literary collections and the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at Emory University.