An ex gave me a map of the places we had been. It was rose and gentle
blue-green like the sea. There were no words – instead it gave language to
the elevation of mountains, with colors bleeding into one another like
prepositions describing space.

When I was small, everything was soft. Nana collected delicate things –
things that break. She called teeth pearly whites, kept us safe with Bon
Bons from the freezer.

There were careful words to hold me.

When I was nine, I used the internet for the first time. I got home from
school and typed an email address into the desktop, watched as text
appeared and looked up at my dad with wonder. We learned words like
online, chatroom, spam

I learned to give my sister shots when I was ten. She accumulated many
words for medicine; piled them on like mud cakes on shoes after a storm,
memorized regimens like nursery rhymes. Reluctantly she wedded insulin
and glucose, later gave up dreams of babies.

Sometime after I was born, my parents let a stranger douse my head in
water. They made promises in my name before I could speak. Do you think
I have any memory of this? Give us this day our daily religion looks
different in a search engine.

At his mother’s funeral, my dad forgot part of the serenity prayer and
didn’t even notice. He skipped over the courage to change the things I can,
despite thirty-three years of practice.

On a road trip, there were entire miles lacking locations – still, I couldn’t
shake the feeling that I had been there before. I left the windows open to
hear signs of life at dawn.

Can you use a compass to tell the time? What about a dictionary?

In college, I wrote something about how tenderness sounded in a dorm
room, but it got lost in the hard drive… the last line was you with the
whales and the rhymes.

Poetry is just some words.

For years, I lived in a house that was defined by its golden hour. You
couldn’t see the sunset through the trees, but you knew it was there when
the porch was a brilliant terra cotta.

We hung a prism in my bedroom and called it a disco in the morning,
counting the reflections of light to touch each other longer. But old stories
flooded through us like the sun beams landing on hardwood panels.

I burned the map in my backyard and watched all night as the intricate lines
grew into smoke signals.

What I am saying is (can I write this part?) I saw a silhouette filled with
fire and tried to make sense of it. I encountered a living constellation –
found a way to trace myself back through an outline of bright marks I
couldn’t read.

I still pray to a god I haven’t met in a language I don’t know: Let me
unleash myself. I think I can be good.

God is a masculine word in my mind – there must be another for what I

Taylor Sheridan

Taylor Sheridan is a queer poet, a teacher, a visual artist, a worker, an organizer, and a Virgo with a Scorpio Moon. She uses poetry to process emotionally fraught topics like mental health, addiction, and sexuality. Her poems convey an internal journey; they also explore the tenuous nature of our need for intimacy in a traumatized society. She lives with her dog Jupiter on the unceded lands of the Clackamas, Cowlitz, Siletz, and other Indigenous peoples, in so-called “Portland, Oregon.” She is currently in the poetry track of the Portfolio Program at the Independent Publishing Resource Center. “Backtracking” is her first published work.