Benjamin Garcia
Featured Writer
Averting the Gaze

mom didn't know I was gay
because she chose not to see
like the maidens of Pompeii
that were instead two boys
we'd now call gay we found
in a last embrace his head
on his chest we might change
our minds about who can hug
who and girls might be boys
people don't stop being people
like the iis at the end of Pompeii
all of their own tongues do things
without us when we aren't looking
the least of which is holding hands


The Great Glass Closet

This is not a metaphor: when I say that I lived in
the closet, it’s because I lived in the closet.

You might, too, if you shared a one-bedroom apartment with eleven other people
and a pet: mother, stepfather, brother, brother, brother, uncle, aunt, cousin, cousin,
cousin, cousin, dog. Then there’s me, the surplus.

You could have called our closet a walk-in closet in the sense that a child’s body
could walk in. Mine did, and I called it home. It was comfortable enough, if you
were willing to lie. I was.


I lived in a confession booth, listening to my own secrets, making my own

Confession: my uncle was different in a way you could see.
                                               I was different in a way you could see

only if you were looking.
           If you were looking, I could see.

What I mean is that my uncle walked on crutches, so he couldn’t cross the border
by foot. He climbed into the trunk of a car, which is a kind of closet.

I was like my uncle, and I was not like my uncle. He walked on crutches and I didn’t.

Confession: during prayers, I don’t close my eyes. Nobody knows this except
the other people who don’t close their eyes.


A life in the closet is a life that’s closed, so I opened what I could—books. I was
Harry Potter, The Boy Who Lived, reading about The Boy Who Lived.

I had no owl, no hat, no wand. I couldn’t cast a spell, and I couldn’t spell. But I
could see the low in owl, I could pull the hat out of that, and in the word wand find
another hidden and.

Reading X-Men, I wanted to be Storm so that I could end the famine in
my family’s village, looking like a badass bitch/queen/goddess doing it. I knew
this was impossible because I wasn’t claustrophobic enough. I could never be

I survived too many storms behind a closet door. And I could never change
my name to Storm, which at its core contains an or. As in, either/or. As in, Ororo
Monroe—Storm’s birth name.

You must choose:
             pink or blue, boy or girl, left or right, right or wrong, truth or lie, truth or dare.

Truth: even writing this I thought that feminine shared an a with famine—femanine.
Dare: hunger for errors, find another place to stick a man inside.

Reading, I learned the difference between cloth and clothe. Also the difference
between close, meaning to shut, and close, meaning almost there.


Sometimes there’s no difference between the past and present, as in: to read
and to have read.

Sometimes there’s no difference between the past and present except for the
surroundings. You can call this context or you can call this what it is—privilege.
Not living in the closet is what people like me did on TV.

But I wasn’t like the people on TV, so I lived in the closet.


In Fun Home, when Alison and her father see a woman wearing men’s clothes and
sporting a man’s haircut, she says:

“Like a traveler from a foreign country who runs into someone from home—
someone they’ve never spoken to, but know by sight—I recognized her with a surge
of joy.”

“Dad recognized her, too.”

Spoiler alert: Alison and her father were both in the closet, but they were not in
the closet together.


My room was a closet for my family’s clothes, my clothes were a closet for my skin,
my skin is a closet for my skeleton. It won’t always be.

It won’t always be this way,
                                                                  but that’s not the same as “it gets better.”

Better requires context:

                                                          a shell could be a spent bullet or the home of a mollusk.

In order to breathe, you have to add the little snail of an e to the end of the word

Breathe. Is it not amazing that we are still alive?


It’s nothing amazing, but in the closet is where I first read The Voyages of Doctor
Doolittle. Marooned on Spider Monkey Island, the only way Tommy can go home
is to climb inside the pink shell of the Great Glass Sea Snail.

I lived in the closet—all wall, no window. So that if I turned out the light, it made
no difference if I shut my eyes. That’s how dark it got.

I used to pretend I was Tommy inside the enormous shell—all window, no wall.
But what was there to see at the bottom of the sea? Nothing except rare animals
that learned, under great pressure, to make light from nothing but the nothing
that they are.

It was cold down there. And lonely. My breath would fog the shell until I wiped
it clear.

But I climbed in when the the Great Glass Sea Snail bowed its great neck to me and
let me enter, hoping I had enough air, heading straight for whatever waited on the
next shore,

                                like any immigrant would.


Ode to the Corpse Flower

In the language of flowers // I am the one who says // fuck you
I won’t be anyone’s nosegay // this Mary is her own // talking bouquet

never let a man speak for you or call you // what he wants // I learned that
the hard way // amorphophallus titanum // it sure sounds pretty in a dead tongue

except it’s Latin for big ugly dick // I mean I am // but what an asshole scientist
I prefer to think of myself // & this may sound vain // as a goddess

cadaver dressed in drag // my stage name // Versace Medusa
part Lilith part calla lily // keep your heteronormative birds & bees // give me

the necrophiliacs // the freaks the meat eating // beetle & flesh fly
there I go again allies / /getting all hot & bothered // being vulgar

vulgar meaning common // as when something is below you // like a girl
forbidden to say fuck // it makes a woman sound so common // oh come on

that’s all you expect from a flower // to be likeable // but to keep it raw & 100
is to be abhorred // fine but even the haters will pay // to hold their nose

at a halftime show // they’ll claim they are beyond Beyoncé // sick of Selena
yet they can’t look away from the Live Cam // no one wants to miss // the showgirl

as she breaks through the cake // unhooks her lingerie // La Virgen de Guadalupe
with a twist of Santa Muerte // what in the hell is she wearing // glad you ask

death is the new Christian Dior // the latest Chanel is corpse smell // I am the week old
ham hock whore of horticulture // I bring the hothouse haute couture // & I always come

in last place // dressed to the nines I get what I want // which is to be The Tenth Muse
Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz // little Evita de Buenos Aires // screwing & screwing over

los descamisados on my Rainbow Tour // fuck Whitman fuck Pound // give me Emily D
speaking of which have I ever told you daddy // sun gods get me hard // you want it

I got it // let me show you how a chola really leans // mother nature may wear floral
but I ain’t your mama // I thirst like Betty Boop at peek coquette // Marylyn Monroe

blowing in an air vent // say Malinche say Truvadawhore // give me more
I thrive in shade // my throat is my throne so // queen me bitch


Reasons for Abolishing Ice

                                with a first line by Bei Dao

because the ice age is over now                                                   ice
because this isn’t our first winter                                                ice
because the polar caps are melting                                            ice
because hands up if they say freeze                                           ice
because it’s getting hard to breathe                                          ice
because it feels like walking on glass                                         ice
because crops are rotting in the field                                        ice
because it’s clear it won’t last forever                                       ice
because it looks like a diamond but isn’t                                  ice
because you are here to take our people                                 ice
because I think we know enough of hate                                 ice
because we’re gathering around the fire                                  ice
because snowflakes also cause whiteouts                               ice
because you took the people out of police                              ice
because I see you——I see you——I see you                            ice
because black is considered more dangerous                       ice
because they say the polar caps aren’t melting                    ice
because a person could slip through at any moment        ice
because you say we can’t use our voice to launch an avalanche ice
because if you want papers then we’ll crush you like booklice thumbed into paper


A Toast to the Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah

                      The waitress tending our party of three dips her tanned 
torso over the table as she grabs the menus from us men. Well,

                                                                      men minus one, since it appears that I'm the only guy
                                                     not looking. Not looking at women anyway. The gold

                      crucifix on her necklace rubs against my brother's straw as 
she withdraws and Jesus ascends again to the heaven

                                                                      of her breasts. The Motorboat is what I order, described 
                                                     as something between a porter and a stoutnow that's 

                     my kind of cross. My father says there's no such thing as sin
that's large and sin that's small. Drinking too much, he says,

                                                                      is the sin, not the drinking, as he peers through our waitress' 
                                                      gingham crop top. There's no such thing as small or large

                     sizes here, the waitress says, man-size is large, girl is small.
Do you really want to order the girl-size? Fine, I want the girl-

                                                                      size. My brother laughs and my father looks away. It's stupid,
                                                     my brother says. But are you really telling me her body

                     did nothing for you? My father looks at me like God
looking for the smallest redemption in Gomorrah, looking

                                                                      for any reason in Sodom not to raze it. There is no reason
                                                     for how things are sometimes--better to accept. My father

                     didn't raise me to be a girly man, a fact that might bother him,
except for the other fact: he didn't raise me. It bothers him.

                                                                      Some people are beyond saving. Me, I tell my brother, as I look
                                                     over his shoulder at the bearded roughneck going gaga

                     for our waitress as he sips from his bottle, there is nothing
straight about me, except maybe my hair, and even that

                                                                      has gotten kinky with age. I drink beer because I'm thirsty 
                                                     eating salted pretzels. I don't have a prayer when I say amen.


Silver City, New Mexico

Morning opens like a sore
                                                 in Silver City, where men
gut their own mother’s
                                                 belly—not for precious metals

                                                 but truck-loads of gravel
                                                                                                      for driveways, foundations,
                                                 xeriscaped yards trying
                                                                                                      so hard to look like they are

                                                                                                      self-sufficient. The sun
                                                 overtakes the sky, like pain
                                                                                                      evaporates the mind and
                                                 its little headlamp. A riddle:

what can be divided like a worm,
                                                 squirms, welcomes itself into one
body, is alive three times, you
                                                 would exchange a ton of gold

                                                                                                      for any measure of it if you only knew
                                                it was leaving. I bet you got it
                                                                                                      by now, I bet you guessed water.
                                                You’d be right. But I wasn’t

                                                thinking water. I thought God,
                                                                                                      or universe. Not that I’m wrong
                                               or right to think this way,
                                                                                                      because perception is on that list,

                                                                 too. It fractures and isn’t broken.
                                                                                                                My neighbor in his 70’s trailer
                                                                 has about ten dogs, and those dogs
                                                                                                               are believers, too, followers of the cult

                                                  of the Virgin of Pain. Their master
                                                                                          punishes them with a baseball bat for shitting
                                                  in the fenced-in yard. The bat is the metal kind
                                                                                           that rings across the exposed rock

                                                  as it strikes them across the back.
And the dogs don’t break, neither
                                                  does the bat. They are the kindest dogs,
they fear their own bodies, bringers

                                                  of pain, because they know their bodies
                                            are imperfect, defecate
                                                  when they meant to pray/fetch/
                                            bone. It’s hard to know what wise men

know. No, what wise men want
                                                  with such a limited brain. I wake to work
in the mines, well, to move
                                                  the gravel around, that’s all I do all day.

                                                  It’s what my father did, it’s what my sons will do
                                                                                              unless they leave. We got rid of the old
                                                  trucks, the kind that dump by lifting back
                                                                                              in one huge pile. Now the truck bed

                                                                                              opens up in flaps like an autopsy,
                                                  disembowels itself. It’s easy enough.
                                                                                              Still, I’ll wake up grating
                                                  my teeth. There are more shards of meth

next door in Hurley than there are stars in the sky.
                                                  But maybe we could all be good
if we could learn to be afraid
                                                  of our own assholes. Sometimes

                                                  when I wake, I could swear
                                                                                               someone was there. God, my mind
                                                  leaps up—and I’m like a dog
                                                                                                jerked awake by its own fart.

Each morning, I wake up grateful.
                                                  Each morning, I forget to remember
to call the dog pound. When I tell Marcelino,
                                                  I swear to God, one of these days

                                                             I'm gunna do it, he only says: sure you will.
                                                                                                       And day makes a fist, and parts 
                                                            of Silver City spill into the far away suburbs: 
                                                                                                       Santa Fe—Phoenix—Albuquerque—


Ode to Adam Rippon's Butt

In the language of the body // merci for this grand bounty // I have to say olé
to  that Olympic butt in a way that isn't crass // so here's your VIP full access // pass

to that show stopper // champagne top popper // better wear your best seersucker
because sure Adam's feet flow like cursive // but let's be honest // what freak

nun is looking at your feet // with a booty that says goddamn // I believe in God
I'm a follower // a convert to your corvette vroom // zooming in a suit that says

eat me // the way you scarf down a double-decker burger // dripping with juices
in full carnal knowledge // it's no good for you // but you stuff your face anyways

without reservation // and even Five Guys // isn't out of the question
did I mention // the special is a buy-one-get-one // free to hair-flip online haters

spin in high heels // strike a pose or gag on Gaga // in a sequin laser light show
with disco washboard stomach // or red carpet ready // dashing in your leather harness

answering what's it like to be gay // athlete in a sport so vehemently // straight-
up homophobic are you still surprised // I'm not // It's the same as anywhere

and always // but with better eyebrows // it's like you're Madonna classic telling
reporters you're a basic // Catholic schoolgirl bia-tch // sassy & saucy & cheeky

to the chin // if the Pope wants to see me let him // buy a ticket like anyone else
does anyone else think about hell // missing an angel // because a butt like that

was made for falling // what cushion to soften the blow // I know I'm hard
crushing ice chips with my teeth // I don't care // just look at that derriere

is it really so terrible // to just this one time let us have this // yes homo yes
me why should I care // what one more glittering fairy has to add // it's sad

that's the discourse of some guys // think it doesn't matter // that he's gay
it matters out in public // at the doctor's office // it matters it matters 

to the men who would beat him // and he might get beaten // in technique
Adam said as much but no one turns a cheek // like me // smeared in Vice

President Pence's rhetorical smatter // don't tell me // it doesn't matter 
so this is an Ode // to Adam Rippon's butt // go ahead and call it shallow 

the rink is so // because it needs to be // hell hath frozen over and I'm here
making angels out of snow with a fury // to jump high // first crouch low