Colin Bailes

the descent is easy, but to climb back to the upper air—

there the struggle, there the labor lies. 1


As wave accompanies shore, shame attends regret.

How many ways can the soul be stretched before it rends?


At the edge of a crater, a crater lake, the rim brims with black water.

When I met the god of death, he brought me straight to you.


At the edge of a glass, a rocks glass, the rim brims with bourbon.

How much of the soul can be excised before it vanishes?


Amaro Averna, Four Roses, demerara, dash of bitters, a red wine floater.

For years I worshiped the god, inhabited you, his domain.


Gate of horn, gate of ivory, which did I pass through

on my long walk back from you, where I dwelt among shades?


1 From Book VI of Virgil’s Aeneid.


Headshot | Colin Bailes


COLIN BAILES holds an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University, where he served as the 2020-2021 Levis Reading Prize Fellow and was awarded the Catherine and Joan Byrne Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets. A 2022 National Poetry Series finalist, his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Best New Poets 2022, Blackbird, The Cortland Review, Missouri Review, Narrative, Nashville Review, Quarterly West, Raleigh Review, Subtropics, and wildness, among other journals. He lives and teaches in Richmond, Virginia.