Gemma Cooper-Novack

I can’t say you made me leave the city, only
that you oozed from beneath the curtains you’d closed
on me, caressed my ankles, waited
to hear me squirm. You named your baby daughter after
a television badass, a character so queer her creators
had never bothered to see. I wanted the city

with your exuberants who spread in layers over dive bars
and made a child’s grammar into technopunk—people who built
what they wanted. I wanted to be you and you wanted
to have me. I shivered when your fingers
would penetrate my hair, and I wanted behind the curtain without knowing

my way in the dark. You never pulled
it back, and I left the city, and your daughter

must be five or six by now. Someday she’ll be old enough to see need
bleed up to your napkin surface, butterflies in ink. Through the crack
between the curtains she’ll watch you watch women,
turn from her father, somersault to the edge
of a city with too much symmetry, with floorboards
that slap back in winter, wilt in the heat. She’ll kiss a girl

herself and your envy will furnace up, too loud
for the lake and its smooth pretty highway
twisting sex-crimped stretches of sand. Someday it will come down
to that: you and your girl
in a city your secrets wrecked. You’ll have to face her,
someone who has what you want
who you opened up to this skyline.

Gemma Cooper-Novack is the author of We Might As Well Be Underwater (Unsolicited Press, 2017). Her poetry and fiction have appeared in more than twenty journals, including Glass, Midway Journal, and Lambda’s Poetry Spotlight, and been nominated for multiple Pushcart Prizes and Best of the Net Awards. Published chapbooks include Too Much Like a Landscape (2015, with Warren Tales) and “Bedside Manner” (The Head and the Hand, 2020). Gemma’s plays have been produced in Chicago, Boston, and New York. She was a runner-up for the 2016 James Jones First Novel Fellowship, and has been awarded artist’s residencies from Catalonia to Virginia and a grant from the Barbara Deming Fund. Gemma is a doctoral candidate in Literacy Education at Syracuse University.