Perfect strangers



We dream a meeting place beyond
a cloakroom where we hang ourselves then
walk formless into air
lungs cannot breathe
and inhale deeply.

Beyond memory we remember and
run legless in ancient forests through
leavened light. Armless we swim in
primal water, cleansed, and
lacking tongues, say nothing.
Nothing needs saying,

not now, when “other” is a foolishness
the absence of which explains why
we do not touch with tender fingers
that do not extend from
separate wrists.

Instead, we feed each other cookies
that do not require mouths.
The good kind:
Chocolate chip.


 When enough time has not passed, the
ordinary world calls us back. Conjured
against our soft will, we fade in
with reluctant ears, helix
incus, cochlea arising as
the air begins to clamor and

trillions of cells coalesce: flesh and
bone and muscle, blood
and tissue, organs
cohering, the coarse elegance of
physical disposition reasserting itself.
The sheathing of our separate skins.

Within our budding brains
synapses potentiate, fire
and it commences:
interpreting, naming, judging.
Weighting the weightless, shaping
the soft curves of our innocent
lips into the word we had forgotten.

The gravity of gathering
form tugs us back through the
cloakroom, still hanging where
we left ourselves while time stopped,
still hanging for the instant it takes
my new brain to choose
my new hands to grasp

I am putting you on;
I am putting you on.






  1. Beautifully written! Love all the “less” images: “walk formless into air”, “run legless in ancient forests”, “armless we swim…” and the idea of water’s purification effect, “lacking tongues”… they all give great strength to your poem.


    1. Thank you! I’ve been reading Patricia Lockwood, whose brilliant poems have a surreal quality and influenced this piece. There’s something simultanously disorienting and liberating about language that turns presumption on its (formless :)) ear.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t know this poet. Just had a quick look on the Internet but will try to get to read her poems. For the moment I am really delighted by yours.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you. She’s a challenge — most of the time I haven’t a clue what she’s talking about — but her use of language is so powerful and original that she is worth a look.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Ooh, I can feel those forms coalescing in that “gravity of gathering.” Well done, Cate!


    1. Thanks, Bob! And thanks for recommending “How to Read A Poem and Fall in Love With Poetry” by Hirsch, which I am now enjoying. He is so in love himself that it’s easy to get caught up in his enthusiasm as well as the content. I have also been reading Patricia Lockwood, whose verve and surrealism are liberating and disorienting. Most the time I have no idea what she’s saying, but it’s impossible to not be moved — thrown about the room, actually — by her raw energy. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re very welcome! It’s such a good book. I’ve only read a handful of Patricia Lockwood’s work, and was intrigued. I need to pick up more.

        Liked by 1 person

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