Monday May 27

LlamarWilson L. Lamar Wilson, a Cave Canem fellow, has poetry in or forthcoming in Callaloo, Rattle, Crab Orchard Review, Jubilat and No Tell Motel, among other journals.

In Search of Abe in Dupont Circle
Men, women & in-betweens hold
hands, walk too close, sport heels,
ass-out jeans, crew cuts & spurs
& cackle at will as you & I skip
into the bookstore. Our prize:
The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln,
that treasure detailing the years before
his politics put Springfield on the map

& that silly top hat on his head, years
when he shared his bed with Joshua Speed –
whether because of tough times or a need
for companionship no one is certain.

But he did write him letters signed
Yours forever, & he did make room

in his presidential suite for David Derickson
when Mary Todd was away. She bore
Robert, Eddie, Willie & Tad & watched
three die before adolescence as Abe grew
more distant. No wonder she went insane!
you marvel as we meander past dildos & pornos
to HISTORY next to the register at the rear
of the store. We’re sure we’ll find him here.
But it’s just another biography that doesn’t tell
the rest of his story, our story. Buy it anyway!
you say, tracing each of my fingertips.
We set off marching with Abe to 17th & M
in our own little demonstration, laughing
at how phallic the Big Dipper looks tonight,
knowing we’ll get to say I do
to whom we want one day. You
open the B&B door for me & laugh
as the lobby becomes catwalk. Mid-stride,
I look down, & in my arms, Abe’s eyes glint
against moonbeams & lamplight, seem sadder
than usual. I lose my balance & fall
against the elevator door, against you
waiting, holding it. You see what I can’t say
& grab my listless hand, swoon about you
& your woman, about Jason & me, our
bicoastal, piecemeal family, woven together
without pomp, by circumstance. Our
delicate tapestry unfolds as you lift
my T-shirt over my head & we slip
into bed, warm skin warmer now:
surer of its holy. Then, I envelop you,
rub your bald head & surrender to your visions
of a day when a femme stud like you,
like Sakia Gunn, can strut down any street
with their women or punks like me
without the specter of a knife, of a hand
with no love for the love it upends. When I call
that man who’s said he loves me for 102 days now
– a feat as unprecedented as believing
he & I will wed & raise the child
I want you & I to make – he doesn’t answer.
You hum bars of Atlantic Starr’s Always, shoo
the haints & omens in our commune, place my hand
on your belly, coo our waiting cherub to sleep.

Finding Fault

I live in a cocoon I’ve created.
I don’t feel a thing in my left hand
in here, but I used to feel everything
everywhere else more than most.
God said let there be irony & there was
I: fighting the good doctor & his forceps
on my coming out day. The preacher says
In all things give thanks, & I do.
Thank you, God, for this bum hand.
It’s nice to be able to hurt myself
& not have to take the blame.
Yesterday, I burned my ring finger
into a bloody mess. It’s been burning
for a studded companion for years.
Or at least I think it has. I can’t
be sure, but where I’m from,
I couldn’t marry who I want anyway.
The preacher says this desire
is unnatural. Gawd don’t make
no mistakes! Gawd don’t like ugly!
Thank you, God, I’m unnaturally pretty.
I’ve felt this desire as long as I’ve not felt
my pinky, long before I broke it
doing exercises the good doctor
told me would help me feel again,
the one that’s still broken
because no one noticed & I’ve learned
it’s easier to let them forget, to sing.
I wish some pervert had touched me
when I was 6 or 17, then I’d have
someone else to share the blame.
Every Sunday, we sing Yes, Jesus loves me
to the children & I cry. I stopped asking
the preacher if his god loved me & my hand
years ago. I intuited early I couldn’t trust
his truths. Little Jeremiah’s eyes light up
every time I walk into the sanctuary.
Thank you, God, I’m not a pervert.

Giving Up the Ghost
My left hand jerks like a catfish, hooked but not
yet dead, all nerves. Must be the fever talking.
I scoot to the edge of the triage table, wince
as another electric shock shoots through it.
I only feel it when I’m sick. I should be sick
more often. I brace for another jolt, then another.
Daddy resists the urge to grab my hand
like he did as doctors sutured my forehead shut
when I was in third grade & two teens caught me
spying while they made out under the gym bleachers.
I hit my head on metal girders running away & didn’t
notice the heat blinding me was my own blood until I rushed
into the din of the game, into Mama’s arms & she spirited
me into the ladies room. At the hospital, Daddy promised me
two scoops of ice cream from Piggly Wiggly if I didn’t cry
while he squeezed my spasmic hand. On the ride home,
I savored the vanilla & strawberry milk until it left my limp
wrist a sticky mess. I think it enjoyed that sweet sting, too,
another blessed accident. Now, the nurse asks questions
nurses must ask, & I nod when she mentions the intruder.
Daddy bolts as though caught by his Holy Ghost, like the time
in church he felt himself about to lose himself & rushed
from the deacons’ pews for the door, quaking & gutted
but not quite gone. He collapsed mid-stride in the doorway,
his arms flailing out of my sight. I always have loved to watch
men carry on, loved to usher in the Amen corner on the women’s side
of the sanctuary, MaMary’s hands & lap within reach there.
I couldn’t break his fall. I watched his legs twitch, his brogans hanging
onto his heels, until he gave up the ghost, rider & ridden
no more. It’s always been this way with us, watching from afar
as the other falls over himself, possessed by something
in some holy face calling us away from our right minds,
our bodies, our manhoods’ limitations. When he bolts now,
I’m sure he’s going to finally make a run for it & get away,
not look back, like so many of those I’ve loved
say their fathers did, like they ran from me before they knew
what they were missing. He flops back into his seat,
grabs its sides, then crosses his arms & collects his fingers
into fists. He slams his eyes shut in prayer, shivering,
as if crossing a street in a windstorm, intent on making it
to the other side. O the blood … O the blood
… it will never lose … By the time I fill out the consent form,
he has opened his eyes. He lets out a long sigh, smiles, then laughs,
ears beet red, & places an open palm on my shoulder, then around it
to steady me as we walk to my hospital room. It’s OK, son.
Daddy’s got you, & this ain’t your time to leave here.