Taking Liberty

by Matt Kelsey

The year is nascent still, a foal
        fresh from another body
                learning its own. The temperature
flirts with the vague idea
        of zero. I’m being rezoned. There’s a new
                map drawn in my mind. I take a breath,
then roll call under that. I say
        Fishtown, Nicetown, Germantown Ave,
                Gayborhood to keep my jaw warm.
I say jaw warm until my mother
        tongue is dumb, becomes another
                part of the unfamiliar. This New Year’s Eve
I took some risks, small though
        they may have been. I painted my nails
                to reward Sephora’s winner of ten thousand dollars’
worth of polish. (They named it “That’s Just Gret-
        chen” after her—what a disaster.) I glued a white feather to the center of a mask, wrapped
a boa ‘round my neck, ducked
        out, having other people to see.
                In South Philly, I passed a woman
ascending her stairs who stopped
        and said Well Happy New Year, Darlin!
                with equal parts warmth and worry,
as if I were one of her own,
        as if I must be someone else
                moving forward.

Matt Kelsey is an editorial assistant intern for RHINO magazine, and will be attending Northwestern University (MSEd) in the fall. He has received teaching fellowships for the University of Washington’s Summer Writing Program in Rome and for UW’s Friday Harbor Marine Labs. He has also received scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. His writing has appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Best New Poets, and elsewhere.