D

If I could roll the tape back, the compressed celluloid
of memory blurring as it is shuttled through
the intricate guts of hippocampal projectors,
I think I’d sit another spell in the old wooden
swing of your grandmother’s garage and smoke
a few menthols with you. I’d choose one of those
winter nights we were both home from college,
the carousel of seasons marked by our pilgrimage
to the lovely simplicity of our motherland,
the passage of time discernable by the silent
multiplication of empty bottles you bought from
Mutt’s down the road. Every conversation,
boiled down to its bones, about proving who
was more alive, measuring our vitality in rehearsed
stories about the sex and booze we had while away,
the lies slipping like smoke from our mouths as if
we were two dragons comparing their wealth from
atop massive heaps of fools gold. In the soft miasma
of those prolonged December nights, the world
outside the cramped garage was strange and
fantastic as the Twilight Zone, drenched
with the electric purples and blues of an 80s flick,
the snow drifting lazy as fallout to meet the Earth,
gripped with rigor mortis. Your family, a rippling
silhouette in the titian light seeping through the living
room curtains while you steeped in the cold shadows,
all half-lidded eyes and teeth slick with the cartoonish
gleam of Clorox commercials, a dopey little Cheshire
reduction, a simpler version of yourself. Countless
moments to choose from, both of us jabbering as
the cold encroached, the thin atmosphere of aluminum
garage thawed, briefly, by the heat of our turgid exhalations,
by the smoldering snubs of cigarettes in our palms, but
I remember our silences best, those moments when we stared
out to the slushy streets listening to the sleeping giant of the city,
our friendship unknowingly reveling in the beautiful winter of its life.

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C

*Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault*

You are my earliest memory.

Those nights, all I wanted to do was to
play with your G.I. Joes and Power Rangers

as our mothers gossiped in your living
room. Your room was a sock-strewn
clubhouse for broken home boys like me,

a place where you taught me
to quietly giggle words like shit
and damn into my hand so my mother
couldn’t hear. You were an older

brother I never had, a model
of miniature masculinity, so when
you told me that your father taught
you how to be a man, I wanted
to learn—what boy at age four

could resist this knowledge? You led
me to your closet and pulled the door
shut behind us, swaddling my eyes
in darkness until you found the cord
and clicked light into existence. Standing
under your striped t-shirts and passing

dusty recycled air between our lungs,
I was lost in my own head, wondering
who had showed your dad how to be
a man and why my father hadn’t shared
this mandate with me himself, so when
you pulled down your pants, and showed
me your shriveled manhood, all I could do

was stare; I was too young to know
that I should be embarrassed by your naked
body. I didn’t understand how being cramped
in the closet with you was going to make me
a man, I had never heard any other boys
whispering about such a rite of passage,
but you told me to trust you and I did.
You spit into your hand and tugged,

as if you wanted to rid yourself
of yourself, and all the while I watched,
afraid I would miss something if I looked
away. Later, you reached out and took
me in your hand, showing me our body’s
awful machinations, telling me that I was
being a girl when I started to cry. You told me

to nurse you like a lollipop, like something
sweet I’d get from the doctor for enduring
a shot. I hoped you were telling the truth,
that when the closet door swung open
I would be a man and the whole world
would be different, but when the light rushed

in and the eddies of dust stopped swirling
your dirty socks were still on the floor,
our mothers were still laughing in the
living room. It’s said that when we die our lives
will flicker in front of our eyes in slow-motion

technicolor, the tapes of our lives rewinding,
constantly rewinding, the sights growing brighter
frame by frame, the smells and tastes sharpening
in our mouths and noses until we’ve looked

back and it all finally makes sense. This is why
I’m afraid of dying—I don’t want the last image
that will ever burn in my eyes to be you,

panting, hand outstretched, as if you
were the answer to all life’s questions,

as if even in death you were coming for me.

K

The first time we made love
was in an empty high school gymnasium

late at night. When I finally saw all of you
in the moonbeams rippling through the grubby

windows behind us—tanned skin, heart-shaped mole,
scars like miniature waxen railroad tracks

crossing your knees—I remember thinking
it’s happening, it’s finally happening, though at the time

I thought it just meant losing my virginity.
We were together for seven months, each lonely

night spent on the phone listening
to each others day echo through the crackling static

vacuum of phone towers stretched 990 miles
between shady hollers and shifting dunes,

so when you came to visit after Christmas
I couldn’t wait to put our words to rest and rely

on the body’s archaic language to tell you
how I felt. Once you were here, though, I realized

that I didn’t want my family and friends to meet you—
I wanted them to meet my girlfriend. You were a topic

of conversation, a doll made of glass in my hands,
something I flaunted, like you were a trembling bunny

I had caught in the woods and brought home to present
to my parents before letting it go at the edge of the lawn.

Do you remember when we fucked for an hour and a half
on my bathroom floor? I faked it twice. It may seem

impossible, but my knees were tired of the tiles
and my parents were sleeping soundly

in the next room. By then, I knew you weren’t
the naked girl I found in that dirty high school gym,

I knew that the moment we shared on the cold
metal bleachers was just that—a moment, frozen in time,

a dusty moonbeam reverie I had created
for myself because I was tired of being lonely.