J. C. Otiono :: “looking for a soft place to land”

Love when met has little opportunity to become grief,
and I took to burying my grief beneath the soil.

I followed you:
succumbed to the hushed grove. 
Those hands, so dark and beckoning
picked at the wound 
and lullèd me stuck
in amber and honey.

Let time
split yourself in two,
layers peeling away.
You pull at yourself slowly 
until you are free.

Flattened into dirt,
how do I keep the leaves from curling?
I took to watering my grief,
for the rainwater to gather
for the soil to suck
most, where it hurts.

Rained upon the aching grin,
caught at half-gasp, half-kiss
in horrid warning:
Pull me in, pull me in.
I can’t forget that
rouge has a taste, 
a taste for the dead and near dying.

Let time
wrest tenderness from 
my nosy pry of wet fingers,
throwing head back, 
trying to fit lips around
the dreadful chase.
Bring to mouth the meat exposed;
let grief wrap her gums
its uneven pockmark of teeth 
around its body
and sink them.

Saliva-slick melts
entrails when they kiss
slurping up, taking
without asking.

(All the soft places to land
have been sucked up)

And leaves behind, 
a lonesome husk;
a lovely
laced up 
candied treat. 

In time,
I took to raising oneself up,
and looked again. I turn 
to tongue the sunlight.

The Venus flytrap
from it’s stitched-mouth modest 
dares, too, 
emerge with a grin.

Let love be at the end
Of this new, violent flowering.


J. C. Otiono (she/they) is a Naijamerican poet and writer (she is also working on queer, dark speculative fiction manuscript about a haunted AI dating app). An absurdist, she believes being silly is a humble offering to the universe. She resides in what’s essentially the wilderness of upstate New York. This is her first published work.