Michaela Coplen – Knot


The stretch of pavement off the road, where the new-builds were never built, where if in dark and his dad’s black car we kept the engine off,

and so were indistinguishable from mounds of upturned dirt, was the place
of our necessity, the place that, on a ready night, having tendered our excuses,

we would drive ourselves, past the billboard lights, the cows in their low blue barn, a narrowing (my nails sunk in the leather seat for purchase, the car a larger cage

we let the animal inside) — and when we parked, with swollen words,
the automatic chuckle, he would eager, and unbuckle, I would put myself

to task, to task to task to task, his plunging urge
my course of study — oh ever-willing subject of the list I had to tick —

and most nights, this was it: a clutch, a minute then of rest,
a fog of breath we’d smear around the windows with our shirts —

but one night, we reversed, he wanted, no he really did, he was sure he could, I said he could, I had no hints to give, he spent hours

trying everything — hitch, bend, twist — while I watched him from inside of me; I tightened me to it; in the dark, his hand

became the shadow of a hand — that other hand, he didn’t know,
I didn’t ever tell him, I was still so in the yoke of it, how could I really

tell him, that the thrum of pleasure had a chord of fear caught up
in it — the slip knot I could never slip, I couldn’t make myself slip.

Knot by Michaela Coplen was highly commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (July 2021) judged by Paul McDonald.

Michaela Coplen

Michaela Coplen is a poet and doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford. She earned her BA from Vassar College, where she served as a poetry editor for the Vassar Review. Her poems have been published online with The Atlantic and Poets.org, as well as in the Bellevue Literary Review and Up the Staircase Quarterly. She won the 2019 Troubadour International Poetry Prize, the 2020 York Poetry Prize, and was included in the 2020 Best New Poets anthology. Her work can be found at: michaelacoplen.com

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