promise: (v) to let go

(a pleasure activism exercise)

I'm at a Marriott in Pueblo
putting lotion on my nipples 
before bed 
when it hits

and I've learned 
I've got to write it down 
when it hits
I've lost too many poems to 
I'll remember it in the morning

and, like, I don't know if you know this
but it's damn hard to write 
with lotion slick hands

and like, I don't know if you know this
but announcing that lotion 
has cured your writer's block 
on social media leaves 
way too much to the imagination

but damn if writing this thing 
with lotion slick hands 
doesn't feel like an orgasm
like the one I found tucked between two stanzas 
in a poem a friend mailed to me last summer

I don't know if you know this 
but turns out lesbians 
can give their gay friends orgasms
let me explain
about the lotion
ill leave the orgasm to your imagination

the Greeks came to lotion by way of Athena
Athens chose that owled eyed butch 
over that totalitarian typhoon Poseidon 
and in gratitude cerebral Athena planted her spear 
and from it sprung olive oil 

like Athena I spend a lot of time up here
at a young age the power of a man's hands 
split me from my body
like Hephaestus split Athena from the crown of Zues 

and when my father disappeared 
like a poem I swear I'd remember in the morning 
I still found myself getting lost up here 
like a sailor at sea 
without the violence of Poseidon 
propelling him 
so I've learned that when it hits 
I've got to write it down 

and I don't know if you know this 
but trauma is a sensory hydra 
multiplying heads every time 
someone touches my body 
every time something feels like an orgasm 

but I figure if a lesbian can give me an orgasm
without even touching my body 
maybe I can make Athena it's patron 
like she is up here 
so I made a promise to myself 

and I don't know if you know this 
but we get promise by way of Latin: to let go 
a promise to put lotion on this polis
in front of my mirror every night 

and I don't know if you know this 
but a lot can get lost in the translation of a promise 
let me explain, I feel a solidarity 
with Medusa looking at herself in Perseus’ shield 

but I refuse to let this body be stone tonight 
so I lather promises all over this [body]

on these shoulders I promise 
to shrug off the weight of an Acropolis 
that belongs to the past

to allow myself to wrap these arms 
around shipwrecks in Poseidon's patriarchal seas 

to use these hands to help 
rebuild everything he's washed over 

to let these legs stop running from 
and redirect them towards 
a metamorphosis of my own making 

to explore this living, breathing, 
city-state of Pallas Athena 
all it’s shame ridden nooks and crannies 

and I don't know if you know this 
but nipples are so distracting 
like, so, so, SO distracting 

so at a Marriott in Pueblo where I'm feeling,
like really feeling, these nips
with lotion slick hands 
I make a different promise
to these turquoise tips
the Latin kind 
a synonym for pleasure, baby 

to let go 
and realize when it hits again 
I don't have to write it down 


Published by Caleb Ferganchick

Caleb Ferganchick is a rural, queer, slam poet activist and author of The Secret of Sunflowers (2021) and Poetry Heels (2018). His work has been featured and published by Western Colorado Writer’s Forum (2021), South Broadway Ghost Society (2020, 2021), “Slam Ur Ex ((the podcast))” (2020), and the Colorado Mesa University Literary Review. He organizes the annual Slamming Bricks poetry slam competition in honor of the 1969 Stonewall Riots and serves as a board member for Western Colorado Writer’s Form and Mutual Aid Partners. A SUP river guide and speech and debate coach, Caleb also dreams of establishing a queer commune with a river otter rescue and falconry. He lives in Grand Junction, Colorado.

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