thirteen ways of looking at the faggot
by Richard Haney-Jardine
nineteen-eighty-six: 28,712 cases reported, 24,599 deaths
rising from the sea
blond mane sequined
with buds of algae
and salt, beautiful
guilty as an orchid
at the sink
rabid with foam
a flying dutchman who never
comes to port, a tern exiled
to a vast, unrelenting sea of
hope, the underling of a druid
four long white tube-socks
coiled, spent like condoms
put to sleep
like an african violet
six republicans at the
seven sentinel urinals
jangling coins, pretending
not to watch, pinstriped
a dam awash with stemmed
power, a motor on the verge
of turning over, a humming
motel door, but housekeeping knows
the eighth-grade math teacher
forever sealed his moustache
behind the chaste kiss of marriage.
he still lingers, after football games.
it’s funny the things he’d forgotten
about his childhood home.
the number of chandeliers, for instance.
chandeliers, bouquets of chandeliers.
the eagle phone perched on its cradle
waiting to feast at the first dispatch.
Prometheus has stolen fire
but it’s ten and he hasn’t called.
in the struggle of the other’s
arms, they lay turbaned in sheets
slightly moist where the efforts
of sleep made them sweat
breastbone against breastbone,
no ribs taken, no ribs broken.
from the prom he never went to,
a corsage at his breast burst
like carmine ink from a pen
blooming into his midnight chest.
wearing just your shirt or mine—we’ve
ceded more than wardrobe you gather me
up from my dreams with a smile that stitches
the smallest petals of my sleep. your beauty
aches the morning—how perilous it seemed
at first—two men in love, dear
god. now at table, your flesh mortifies me,
elbows touching, we. must. live.