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 sentences. 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 Storm. 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 breath. 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 stout—now 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