Self-Portrait as Lighted Torch
for Janet Mock

First I know I am not human

like this but the world
does not see

beneath this bud of flame—
Still there is my mother's cherry

lipstick I am not sure I want
to wipe away — I would fasten

each kiss from my mother
like a tiny red balloon

to my wrist if the world weren't
so goddamn deflated — It seems unnatural

that the night could snip
the thread of a son like so :

working by candlelight
to pull his hips wider

than the moon that shines upon them —

With only the lipstick smudge of the wind
he knows better

than even the boy he meets         how quickly

he could turn
the whole forest to flame

Peter LaBerge is the author of the chapbook Hook (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2015). His recent work appears in Beloit Poetry Journal, The Iowa Review, Sixth Finch, Colorado Review, Best New Poets 2014, and Indiana Review, among others. He is the recipient of a fellowship from the Bucknell University Stadler Center for Poetry, and the founder and editor-in-chief of The Adroit Journal. He lives in Philadelphia, where he is an undergraduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, and online at (

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761