Day 18 – He Took Me to a Gay Bar (for Michael)

(Photo Credit: Flickr, IPS News)
(Photo Credit: Flickr, IPS News)

He – confident and at ease
since his coming out – had slowly come
more and more into his own
with every year spent
far from our southern home.
And tonight, he vowed to pop
my gay-bar cherry, to plunge me
deep into the pulse
of their communal heart.

But here, in this upper west side suite,
a hot den of same-self love,
his newfound warmth had run cold,
reverted to shyness – his quiet
of so many forgotten and hushed
howling moons before.

I, however, was never more
relaxed. As neither the caster
nor the catcher of affections,
there was no one in here
whom I longed to impress
or hoped to undress
later on that night.
No figurative or literal
fucks were given.

This, this is what confidence feels like –
the realization that none of this affects you,
nothing here can harm you,
nobody can drive you to harm yourself.
Tomorrow, life would carry on for me,
unchanged by the events of the evening before.

Then I turned back to my friend,
saw him straining to uncoil himself
with the guarded clutch
of his fourth 5-fingered whiskey,
watching all his concentrated energy
drain from his body with each effort made
to impress the boi bantering beside him,
chatting so easily, laying friendly
hands upon adoring fans.

He’s always been more
backstage crew than front row actor,
and his jealousy, his anxiety throbbed
off him with the heat of a hundred stage lights.

The popular shows, the few that even exist,
never display this facet of gayness –
as if awkward intimacy is only ever reserved
for the straights, and everybody else
just gets crumbs of caricature.
The flamboyance, the boyishness,
the leathers, the BDSM –
the fringes of so vastly different communities
tied together to blanket a people falsely,
to cover up our misunderstanding,
to force ourselves to forget that –
just like every other human –
they want to be wrapped
in the warmth of another, fighting
the chill of a snowy Sunday morning, together
beneath a thinning bedsheet of shared communion.

Day 17 – What Your Shoes Say (A ghazal)

(Photo Credit: Flickr / CountYourBle$sings)
(Photo Credit: Flickr / CountYourBle$sings)

The children’s brights and blasts, hear them home.
The skittering of stilettos that roam, hear them home.

The squeak of rubber soles upon mopped tile,
the slop of boots in old mud, hear them home.

The echoing confidence of dancer’s clogs
clomping broken concrete, hear them home.

The emptiness of bare and bound feet,
being drug across dirt, hear them home.

The thud of my nothingness thrown in shallow grave
swallowed should inside dark wood. Hear them home.

[Note: More here on the poetic form of ghazals.]

Day 16 – Lupine

(Photo Credit: Flickr / Lucia Galovicova)
(Photo Credit: Flickr / Lucia Galovicova)

In our beginning, there was nothing
more than stolen glances, hushed hopes,
and brushed dreams painted in word
inside the domes of our midnight minds.
We hid them behind clouds, fearful
of what the moon may expose of us.

We had shared space for months,
watchful to catch the other’s hair bristle
at the sight of the other’s shadow,
the call of the other’s name.

And the king would lay down his crown
to lay beside her, to make a den
of broken lights in the darkness.

But the noble never stay for long.
Duty beckons to be gone,
with temptations of wild game
turned frenzy, the ferocity
of sharp-saliva hunt, the gush
of the warmest blood upon our tongues.

When we beast-howl at the glowing rock
in the sky, we’re only ever asking for it
to move oceans in our favor,
to shallow the land that separates us
from what was born to be our next kill.

Day 15 – The Entrepreneurial Ghost

(Photo Credit: Flickr / Saud Helal)
(Photo Credit: Flickr / Saud Helal)

I fear I’ve inherited the entrepreneur’s spirit
but neither his body nor mind.
Within, there lives this vague notion
of what I want, a blurred image
of what success can be.
I feel it, but I’ve never seen it;
ghosts don’t show in mirrors.

When those without vision lead themselves,
do we still call it the blind leading the blind?

I’ve asked many to draw me maps,
to mark the pieces of broken paths
that guide me out of my haunted self,
back into something resembling
an everyday human, someone willing
and content to accumulate hours,
punch shift clocks, get paid
to temporally adopt someone else’s problems.

But every time they hand me the machete
and point me in the best right direction,
the cumbersome blade always seems to fall
upon flesh, to turn inward against bone,
to rip into tendon and slice open heart.

I steal one last glimpse from the glass,
watch my bloody body blur
and fade from existence, once again
restarting the cycle of the damned.

Day 14 – Sex Toys, New School

(Photo Credit: Flickr / Jenny Demilo)
(Photo Credit: Flickr / Jenny Demilo)

I dreamt of you on the eve of your birthday –
my subconscious remembering the date
from our school-years togetherness,
recalling our nights of throwing back drinks
with our hips, sloshing the vodka inside them.

But we agreed, for the sake of friendship,
to remain a-physical. Only two calculated hugs
(one on the way in, one on the way out)
allotted for whenever we gather.
The temptation of comfort and relapse
was ever present, so it was wiser
(and more algebraic) not to court
our old numbers once again.

But last night, my mind had a mind of its own.
Recalled the new sex toys you’d shown me
(calculated or coincidental, I’m still not sure)
during our last two-hug hangout.
The ones you gave yourself as early gifts.

They made me feel (as they always have)
like a child pinning a corsage
on his first homecoming date.
Reminded me that I was too unconfident
and unsure of myself to ever incorporate them
into the classroom of our bedroom.

But in my dream, I was unabashed.
Exploring your curves and grains
with new shop tools not meant to replace
the originals, but to aid them in our P.E. adventures.
I’d like to lie and say it was all for the sake of learning
(this show of solidarity once dressed in less awkwardness)
but we’re trying not to play one another again.

I almost called you that morning after.
Called you like I would have when
we still had chemistry together.
(But would you have playground picked
the live version of my course fantasies?)
I think my sudden interest and sharing
would have been too inviting
to our old enticement, would undermine
our terms of hallway friendship.
So I withheld, out of respect for the new us
we were teaching ourselves to become.

And as this dream of sex toys did
with my head, I hope your gear is helping
you to plumb the depths of yourself
(better than I ever could) so that when
someone new next begins the descent,
(s)he’ll have part of a guided path to follow
to know how to carry you all the way home.

Day 13 – Women Ache Rain

(Photo Credit: Flickr / Mαmà)
(Photo Credit: Flickr / Mαmà)

We whisper delirious:
tongue sweat and drunk moon purple
against smooth peach sky.

Sweet goddess, swim in bitter lazy lie.
Dress down languid blood lake fashioned
through red sun and black scream.

Love these women fiddling honeyed dreams.

Gorgeous mother, rip blue shadow from my bones,
smear my worship here –
I am but man,
you are home.

Day 12 – Age 26: Father vs. Son

Father on the phone.
Father on the phone.

When I call my father again
to tell him that I cannot pay this bill,
did not get that job,
I am smothered
in his silent disappointment.

Behind the static
there’s this broken expectation,
a worn phrase match-tipped
to the flame of his held tongue:
When I was your age.

When he was my age,
he’d had the beginnings
of a commodity career,
a first house, a wife, a son,
a truck of his own,
friends and family five minutes away,
and pride in himself.
He had a leviathan to rail against,
to help define how he’d steer his life.

We both have dogs and bad backs,
but I thank the storks I have no children.

I own only mounds of debt,
Two-and-a-half worthless degrees,
no sense of direction, no steady job,
no girlfriend, no property,
and but a few friends and family
whom I would trust with a body,
either my own or another’s.

I have solely my interior to mine,
this behemoth to bring to the surface
and attempt to refine
into something that’s sellable,
something that someone would want
to consume, to put inside
their minds and try it on their bodies.

But my father is wise enough to know
that times are different now.
He wants his children
to not need him anymore,
but to love him nonetheless.

He wants to be left alone,
to go out on his fishing boat,
steer to the center of the lake,
and sit with the near silence
of silty water lapping up
against cypress plank – immersed
in the closest thing he’s ever had to peace.

"How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live." — Henry David Thoreau


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