Barnegat Light, New Jersey—April 4, 2015
Because looking at myself w/ out you beside me is unnatural
& though the light is all wrong—your camera slung & up
the light feels right to me, warm & soft, your chest pressed
towards my back, both our heads angling towards the dock,
boat slips on the bay—all the scallops secure in the sea still,
their bone-less bodies soft. & our own getting softer each day.
Sometimes the mirror makes our features fun-house style
& we’re way more old age than the teen age we most times
or the slight of shutter promises supple & smooth, where edge
& ravine & straight up wrinkle have arrived & settled in
like vulnerable house guests we don’t have the heart to kick
How comfortable they’ve become all over our fine faces
& my neck—how they’ve become familiar w/ our privacy. How
we’ve begun to cradle them. Stitch & loom. In the photograph
there we are—chins tilted towards one another, mouths closed
& turned up. A type of satisfaction dead in this middle we’re
Copyright © 2015 by Ellen Hagan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 18, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.
Sometimes it pays to go to Bojangles. To drive out of the parking lot, see the red awning: Fish & Duck Skills. A man walks out and it is broad daylight. Back when I was a new adult in Chattanooga I’d dare myself to go to the Adult Book Shop on Market Street in the daytime or to the gasoline station that my parents frequented, the one close to our old house, where pornography was stored in plastic. Back then I only dreamt in violence. & living was an act of deliberate volatility. Likely, I could trace it all back to Vaughn who laughed in my face when I told him I’d been molested that this was the reason having sex with boys was an act of self-hatred, how Vaughn shared not his story of sexual assault, but my story, with any Tyner Junior High teen willing to listen. So much was going on back then: the little race riots between us & Ooltewah, the White gay guy who thought he was Prince and was terrified of being found out that he wasn’t Prince & that he was gay, the boys who would store their guns in our lockers, my girl friends and I pretending we were gay, kissing each other in the hallway, on the lips, in front of the teachers, because designer clothes were expensive and scandal was free. I didn’t bother telling anyone that I was queer and that just about every single day I didn’t wish I was White, I just wished that White people weren’t. But I fished for the Whitest voice and duck tailed my hair knowing that one day no one would remember that I put a gun in my locker, that I kissed Deidre on her lips, that I sang “the freaks go out at night” at the top of my lungs & thrust my hips to “Candy” on my way to the pep rally. No, what people would remember was that I was Black. The end.
Copyright © 2018 by Metta Sáma. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 17, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.