2018 Academy of American Poets Prize

Sanctuary

by Inez Tan
 
 
That what I seek in sex
would not be found in sex
 
That I would come closer
to landing the longer I fell
 
That I would not die
until I’d been everyone I was supposed to
 
That fear was a rumor
that could make itself come true
 
That some words
are stillborn
 
while others emerge wet and shuddering
with each new breath
 
what is happening
 
and how was I so wrong
 
that even now I could be ready
to draw back
 
from the recognition
that you and I were meant
 
to be here
sharing this creaking wooden bench
 
crying I felt you
sit down next to me
 
never would have seen you otherwise
a nondescript man in ordinary clothes
 
never would have believed that I’d welcome 
a stranger’s hand on my back
 
that becoming vulnerable to you
is safer than remaining alone.