“There’s the sound of birds rising …”
Not descending. Rising.
As if punctuating clouds,
Or the stifled whimper
of a mother wolf
seeing her runt go limp.
Composure for the survivors’ sake.
Maybe some lover’s hand
lifting, yoga like,
finger outstretched like those
it points to: Michelangelo’s ceiling.
A sultry glance
from behind oversized sunglasses
saying without saying,
I dig your hip-huggers.
That umbrella fringe trembling,
pre-storm—sand spray softly
prickling newly browned legs.
Or that woman adjusting her sari
in the hot dry breeze,
always a few steps ahead
of her husband.
And girls, definitely girls—la la-ing,
twirling before dusty mirrors,
where they spy more beautiful
versions of themselves.
through narrow windows
across a narrow alley lined with carts—
piled with sun-softened mangoes
and bananas, sardines, tin trinkets—
and lovely whores peddling quickies.
Are your greedy ears any different
than the loins of the tempted
in their egg-colored suits:
those day traders in a tropic city
with too-long lunch hours?
Rock-n-Roll and summer shares
no longer enough to shake up
their Mojito weekends.
Amidst the hypnosis of your chatter,
you may submit to their language
of headachy desire, their faces
like love notes in a book of the dead.
Witchy. A sutra of despair. In Chinese.
Or Japanese? Some foreign syntax
you still manage to understand.
Even the slow rot of the fruit
speaks to you, asks: What if
there’s only hell in the hereafter?
A slow climbing with ghosts
to the pristine pearly gates?
—for Three's Company's Jack Tripper/John Ritter
A place where landlords
preferred a man
who preferred a man?
Where that man could cook
for the women—
his hairy arms stirring
flat on the brown shag (his chest) rug—
with cookie crumbs—
rubbing rubbing …
that horny lady
in rainbow muumuus
and cockamamie jewelry
And other lessons ...
like eluding Lana's lust,
lisps, limp wrists—
what would be
of a man: a beachy boy
with bangs and bright eyes
who wanted to live
in this place
of potted plants
and wicker thrones
pretending to be like me?
Instead of pretending
to live in a place
he could never fully be.
Maybe it was—he was just my old man.
Or maybe that he was a mechanic.
I knew it would be less than organic.
It would be hard for him to understand.
Under car hoods all day, with greasy hands,
would he slip on my news into panic?
Fellow grease monkeys think me Satanic?
I was a grad student taking a stand.
“Hey, kid, ya get just one life—go live it.”
And I was back on the road, smooth driving.
But he'd have questions later so vivid.
Like, “How'd you take the hatred, the hiding?
Don't those stereotypes make ya livid?”
I said, “Yes, Dad,” stunned by my own, thriving.
“So I used to date this comedian,” he said.
“But it didn’t work out.
Because, I don’t know, I guess
I was just funnier than he was.
And he was like threatened by that?
Then there was my stint with that veterinarian,
which was going really well actually.
Until he sensed my special connection to animals.
I mean, I can’t control a god-given gift.
You would think it was a good thing, right?
Whatever, his loss.
Just like my ex-fiance, Mr. Defense Attorney …
Far be it from me to back down to anyone.
Especially someone with such flimsy arguments.
After all, I was captain of my high school debate team.
It was probably just a tender-ego thing.
And don’t forget that porn star.
You know, the one I was seeing last fall?
Well, you can imagine how that went.
God, I mean, really … it’s not my fault.”
is the author of the poetry collection Cool Limbo (NYQ Books, 2011) and the editor of the Lambda-nominated essay anthology My Diva: 65 Gay Men on the Women Who Inspire Them (University of Wisconsin Press, 2009). He also has had three poetry chapbooks: Cover Charge (Winner of the 2007 Gertrude Chapbook Competition); Girls, Girls, Girls (Pudding House, 2008); and The Slip (Poets Wear Prada, 2009). His work has appeared in Cimarron Review, Court Green, Swink, Columbia Poetry Review, 5 AM, Poet Lore, Gay and Lesbian Review, Bloom, and other journals. He has been awarded residencies at Soul Mountain Retreat (CT), Ucross (WY), Lambda Literary Foundation (CA) and VCCA (VA). He splits his time between San Francisco and New York City, where he acts as an Associate Editor for Mudfish and teaches for Berkeley College. He earned an MFA at New School, an MA from San Francisco State and a BA from Hofstra University, all in Creative Writing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.