Softboy Origin Stories

Tender is a four-letter word,
coats your tongue lavender.

You learn confession as apology and love
all the meat that comes with it—

weight and kneecaps. Nomenclature
is a daisy-chained war machine.

When your voice, all gravel,
erupts, it comes

with the ash of theater.

Sound is earworm, is parasitic,

is, you know, easy to mistake
for closeness. How, over thick

strips of bacon, you find shine
in grease and I'll believe

you because it sounds better.
How, you tell the waitress

it's my birthday
because it must be

someone's birthday
and it's not a lie

but a substitution.

Rachel Stempel is a genderqueer Jewish poet and educator. They are the 2020 winner of the Matt Clark Editors' Choice Prize in fiction from New Delta Review and their work has appeared in or is forthcoming from The Nasiona, SPORAZINE, Penn Review, and elsewhere. Born in Ukraine, they currently LARP as a Long Island townie. (failedturingtest@outlook.com)

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761