Florida Again

                              I forgave myself for having had a youth.
					            —Thom Gunn

At the Fashion
Square mall,
back
of Waldenbooks,

I saw my younger self
haunting
the magazine rack.
Ripping out pages

of Blueboy,
tucking them 
in a Trapper
Keeper.

Turn back.
His eyes met mine,
animal
and brittle,

a form
of gratitude
that a man
kept his stare.

Any man.
I half-smiled
some admission,
and though

he couldn’t
see it coming,
I excused him
his acid jeans;

two Swatch
watches,
two guards.
He, I,

must have been
nineteen:
sex was “safer”
then—

scribbles
on the mall
men’s room stall;
malaise

of saxophone
and PSAs.
How
did I

even
learn how to live
in 1991?
Landlocked,

cock-blocked,
Spanish moss
festering.
I forgive him.

More by Randall Mann

Poem Beginning with a Line by John Ashbery

Jealousy.  Whispered weather reports.
The lure of the land so strong it prompts
gossip: we chatter like small birds
at the edge of the ocean gray, foaming.

Now sand under sand hides
the buried world, the one in which our fathers failed,
the palm frond a dangerous truth
they once believed, and touched.  Bloodied their hands.

They once believed.  And, touched, bloodied their hands;
the palm frond, a dangerous truth;
the buried world, the one in which our fathers failed.
Now sand under sand hides

at the edge of the ocean: gray, foaming
gossip.  We chatter like small birds,
the lure of the land so strong it prompts
jealousy.  Whispered weather reports.

?

is only something on which to hang
your long overcoat; the slender snake asleep
in the grass; the umbrella by the door;

the black swan guarding the pond.
This ? has trouble in mind: do not ask
why the wind broods, why the light is so unclean.

It is summer, the rhetoric of the field,
its yellow grasses, something unanswerable.
The dead armadillo by the roadside, indecent.

Who cares now to recall that frost once encrusted
the field? The question mark—cousin to the 2,
half of a heart—already has begun its underhanded inquiry.

September Elegies

          in memory of Seth Walsh, Justin Aaberg, Billy Lucas, and Tyler Clementi

There are those who suffer in plain sight,
there are those who suffer in private.
Nothing but secondhand details:
a last shower, a request for a pen, a tall red oak.

There are those who suffer in private.
The one in Tehachapi, aged 13.
A last shower, a request for a pen, a tall red oak:
he had had enough torment, so he hanged himself.

The one in Tehachapi, aged 13;
the one in Cooks Head, aged 15:
he had had enough torment, so he hanged himself.
He was found by his mother.

The one in Cooks Head, aged 15.
The one in Greensburg, aged 15:
he was found by his mother.
"I love my horses, my club lambs. They are the world to me,"

the one in Greensburg, aged 15,
posted on his profile.
"I love my horses, my club lambs. They are the world to me."
The words turn and turn on themselves.

Posted on his profile,
"Jumping off the gw bridge sorry":
the words turn, and turn on themselves,
like the one in New Brunswick, aged 18.

Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.
There are those who suffer in plain sight
like the one in New Brunswick, aged 18.
Nothing but secondhand details.

Related Poems

Queer

Lie to yourself about this and you will
forever lie about everything.

Everybody already knows everything

so you can
lie to them. That's what they want.

But lie to yourself, what you will

lose is yourself. Then you
turn into them.

                 *

For each gay kid whose adolescence

was America in the forties or fifties
the primary, the crucial

scenario

forever is coming out—
or not. Or not. Or not. Or not. Or not.

                 *

Involuted velleities of self-erasure.

                 *

Quickly after my parents
died, I came out. Foundational narrative

designed to confer existence.

If I had managed to come out to my
mother, she would have blamed not

me, but herself.

The door through which you were shoved out
into the light

was self-loathing and terror.

                 *

Thank you, terror!

You learned early that adults' genteel
fantasies about human life

were not, for you, life. You think sex

is a knife
driven into you to teach you that.