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Two Poems by Jeremy Radin

Updated: Mar 1


THE SOFTNESS


But when I talk about loneliness I’m talking about softness

& when I talk about softness I’m talking about being a big

man, so I’m talking about at least the suggestion of violence,

the way I like to wear my hair & my beard, & this fractious

Russian monk’s face, which I’ve tried to soften with round

tortoise-shell glasses & a desperate lightness about the eye,

but still I am, compared to most men, I would say, hulking,

so when I talk about loneliness, yes, retribution is implied—

I played Jud Fry in my high school production of Oklahoma!

& members of the football team told me how frightening

I was & I was infatuated with the girl playing Laurey who

who was infatuated with the boy playing Curly & I let my

patchy beard come in & stalked the hallways, I might have

told you I was being method but it was just an excuse to be,

for a few moments, as angry as I was, looking at the world

from underneath my eyebrows, imagining I was the kind

of man who could set a barn on fire for love, but I wasn’t,

I was a Ferdinand, wanted to sit just quietly & smell roses

thrown by the women into the arena around me & imagine

for a moment that the roses were for me & not the matador

who would come to cut me down—I felt like that but in fact

I was cruel to my peers, in fact I body-slammed a boy against

the lockers & laughed & made him laugh with me—I had

earned, I felt, this cruelty, & I have had to unlearn it, learn

softness instead, because loneliness was trying to turn me

into something I hated, it still tries, I was the fat kid & now

I am the big man, I look at the men the women date instead

of me & wrestle myself away from the brutal conclusions

& I feel something rise up, something older & angrier than

I am, & so I must remain soft, committed to softness, must

commit myself every moment to softness, must water my

plants & sit in my room & imagine how soft I will be, how

terribly soft, should I drag myself out of these circles &

back into the world.




THE TENDERNESS


yesterday I stopped in the middle

of a run to help a UPS man carry

a large rectangular box to the door

of a house. No big deal. Just

a thing I did, for a fellow human

who I care about, even though

he was a stranger. Just a moment

of practicing tenderness which is

a word I like & would like to get

a tattoo about—ideally, this line

by the poet Aracelis Girmay:

& so to tenderness I add my action

as a reminder to me to always be

tender, & so also maybe women

who I am attracted to might see

that I take more than a passing

interest in tenderness, that it is

something important enough

to me to set permanently into

my very flesh, & maybe they will

look at me & the tattoo & have

a feeling of me being good at

kissing/touching & will approach

me in the bar & I will put down

whatever book I might be reading

& say hello & this will lead toward

something like a wedding, a grand

ceremony during which my family

will speak in hushed tones with my

friends about how far I’ve come

in such a short time & I will hear

& pretend not to hear, but hold

my brave bride closer to me, who

was willing to approach me all

because of this tattoo that I have

not gotten yet but think of often,

this potential tattoo that proves

what went unwitnessed: moment

I am writing about because no one

was there, no one saw me helping

this man with the box, bearing

the large box upstairs, stopping in

the middle of a run which it’s hard

to build momentum back up once

you stop running, but I did, I did

do that, & I want you to know

that this happened because you

were not there to see it & you

should have been there, who-

ever you are. Likely now I am

addressing the same woman who

will approach me in the bar &

see my tattoo & come to love me

so easily, woman I address in all

my poems, who is very specific

in that she loves specifically me

& sees what a good good tender

person I am & would throw her

arms around my shoulders as I tell

how I helped the man but leave out

the part where his route coincided

with my run, & each time he passed

he said thank you again, & how each

time he said it I felt less & less like

the person who helped him until

finally he said thank you & I did

not respond, I lowered my head

& kept running down my street,

up the drive, headlong into these

penalties I have, thanks to my

tenderness, earned.





Jeremy Radin is a poet, actor, playwright, teacher, and extremely amateur gardener. His poems have appeared (or are forthcoming) in Ploughshares, The Colorado Review, Crazyhorse, Gulf Coast, The Journal, and elsewhere. He is the author of two collections of poetry: Slow Dance with Sasquatch (Write Bloody Publishing, 2012) and Dear Sal (not a cult press, 2017). He was born and lives in Los Angeles where he earned his MFA in Eating Large Sandwiches at Brent’s Delicatessen. Follow him @germyradin

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