This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features three poems by Zachary Pace. 


from Gender Studies

Thousands of trees—each an individual (also belonging
to a genus, family, order, class, division, kingdom)—
surrounded you & me earlier today as we discussed
the insidious, invasive nature of heteronormativity,
swearing we’d never stop exploring newer manners
of loving—caretaking, homemaking—us both free from
the biological, egomaniacal procreation compulsion.

Then, I should’ve confessed, I’d like to be responsible
for you, your happiness, safety, but I couldn’t say it—
given the chance to confirm, dispel, or prolong fantasy
I’ll always delay & delay, because desire often leads us
to flee what we seek—(although I think you would’ve
reciprocated) . . . at the end of the day, I feel I am
—I know I’m not—the first person to feel this way.


from Gender Studies

The two of us fucking tonight
             as I envision somebody else

—bedside, underwear, unwashed
             cups, Sunday’s New York Times,
twelve leaves on one houseplant,
             Roman numerals circling a clock—

the fantasy of control over chaos
             a luxury of having too much choice.

Once, I was an outcast, who’d later
             find kindred personalities, forming
a kind of tribe, and so developed
             an identity defined by romance . . .

now coupled, this single presence
             enhances every other’s absence.


from Gender Studies

Nobody necessarily needs sex and yet
many people seek it daily

while some forgo intercourse
with certain others, or altogether

(its proximity to the abject perhaps
too traumatic to ignore)

these bodies—same ones
at the end as at the start

—you & I will inhabit awhile
(you like the mountains

I like the open ocean)
but we’ll forget a lot—plot upon plot—

in order to be, to be changed. All life
death intrudes, all life is is an interlude.



Once a week, the PEN Poetry Series publishes work by emerging and established writers from coast to coast. Subscribe to the PEN Poetry Series mailing list and have poems delivered to your e-mail as soon as they are published (no spam, no news, just poems).