In the Locker Room, My Father
is a god. I wait on the bench below him
like Ares, wrapped in a white towel:
rough cotton, stamped Smithfield YMCA.
Steam settles around our collection of feet.
Like this we prepare for war. He tells me:
Son, you will walk away from your home,
from the hearts of your mother and father.
I will command this. You will walk in search
of the Mississippi and along the way, become
an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. You will
learn how to fill a pipe with fine tobacco.
How to give a woman your phone number
with grace. When you reach the muddy banks,
you will swim to an island and come back
where nothing is the same. Water drips
onto the breadth of my father’s thighs,
onto the lack of my own. How old am I?
Nine? Ten? My father sighs and tells me:
Or son, you will take to men. They will take
to you and you will become their prophet,
but also their sacrifice, their burnt offering.
I gush—love this song!—and rush to his stereo
in the corner (“Alligator” by Tegan and Sara).
I’m dancing, dressed hip, fit for the scenario
in a Flaming Lips tee, ripped, and a pair of
briefs (highlighter yellow, American Apparel).
I’m dancing in his bedroom. He laughs, shakes
the bottle of poppers from the nightstand, takes
a hit into each nostril, his eyes rage, now feral,
set ablaze. He leaps toward me, puts the bottle
to my nose. Says, Here my boy, just breathe.
I admit: I’m no good at this. I feel his heart throttle
(inside his Marlboro chest). He licks his teeth
then kisses me deep. In the corner, the stereo
thrums. He hooks my waistband. It won’t be long.
I was watching Jesus Christ Superstar (1973, Norman Jewison, dir.),
a movie full of beautiful people. Forgive me Lord, for I have sinned.
And I have to tell you, Lord, I wanted the most beautiful person to be you.
But it wasn’t. You were about to die—you are always about to die.
The Romans beat the bejesus out of you (see Stations of the Cross: Station #5
on YouTube). As it is written (King James Bible, Oxford edition, book of Luke,
chapter 22, verse 63): And the men that held Jesus mocked him, and smote him. Smote, the past tense of smite. Smite, to hit somebody hard. Or, to affect them
disastrously. Or, to fill somebody with love or longing. I cannot tell you the difference, Lord. The man who beat you was beautiful. Blonde with kind eyes,
warm, the color of tobacco or coffee or earth. I have to say: I understand why
you did it, Lord, why you stood there, held your breath, and took your beating.
Under the Streets of Covent Gardens
Slick with sweat, I sit in the steam
of a bathhouse sauna. To seem
blasé is the key here, I glean
from the other man. He is Art—
his body bare, except the wrist
watch, Hermès, he wears to avert
the gaze. He sweats.
His torso, a centurion’s, collects
the water. Gravity directs
it downriver, down the body,
down his oblique, then thigh, then knee,
then calf. It is pleasure to see
his toe uncurl, his toe lift to graze
the blonde calf, leg ablaze
in moth-covered light. I think, Propose
some action. But soon another man
comes. Kneels to worship abdomen,
and pectoral, and, of course, groin:
that sum of flesh grazed in blonde hair,
flesh slick with sweat, and with due care,
he takes the cock once, twice, to bear
beyond his lips. This should suffice,
I think, quite worth the ticket price.
I watch, left to my own device
in the corner, four feet away.
But desire, as always, holds sway.
The man on the bench suggests they
fuck. They stand and face me. Come on,
one says. I watch the penetration,
and though it is lovely, I long
to see the toe uncurl again,
to scratch the sweaty calf, the skin
slick with sweat: the place it begins.
My Mother Addresses the United Nations
We have come to think recent earthquakes
in Japan reflect the widespread mistakes
of this body to enact real climate
change legislation. It is clear the stakes
are high; we ask the assembly commit
full resources, and thus, we readmit
the Multinational Climate Treaty,
Bill Number 1573, Part 8.
What else needs saying, everyone? Let’s see.
Uzbekistan’s Ambassador Murray
needs a haircut, it’s clear from where I stand.
Last night, my son said with anxiety:
“Mom, I’m gay. Do you love me? I’m scared
and have lost my ticket to the promised land,
it seems.” So I tell him: “Honey,” then sigh—
which brings us here today, when I command
two things of this body. One, permit
the treaty to pass. Two, find his ticket.