Connor Watkins-Xu πŸ”ˆ

Winter Aperture

In the photo, you’re holding
a bowl up to your chin,
the phrase If you love the cat
painted on it. I asked what
the other side said, but you
couldn’t remember. No ending
makes sense – that profound
secret left among the shelves.

Only an E and X peek through
your puffer jacket’s zipper teeth
(another phrase I’ll never know).
I transfigure them into words like
T-Rex or Sexy, a little irony to match
the laugh I imagine after the shutter
of your friend’s camera phone.
Straight black hair streams over
your shoulders like ribbons from
the cuff of your Capitals beanie.
Thick-rimmed glasses draw me
into squinting eyes, your stacked smile,
then asymmetric lines of shelves
crossing behind you, bringing you close.

Seeing the picture months after,
I notice smaller details: the uneven
white tips of your nails at the edges
of the bowl, scattered hairs falling over
your clothes like scratch lines on old film,
orange clearance stickers making a future
out of crockpots, fake China, silverware.
I have no clue where you are, only that
some part of you moves from that aisle,
effortlessly – toward me, then away.

Author Reading

About the Author

Connor Watkins-Xu holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Maryland and a BA from Baylor University. His poems can be found in Ploughshares, storySouth, MAYDAY, and elsewhere. His manuscript was named a semifinalist for the 2023 Tupelo Press Berkshire Prize. He is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets University Prize and scholarships to the Southampton Writers Conference and New York State Summer Writers Institute. Originally from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, he currently lives in Seattle. He’d love to hear from you @connorwatkinsxu on Instagram.