When the Neighbor Boys Gathered

         It seemed all their faces grew
sticky as they watched. Fruit flies stuck to their chins.

Like any soft boy, I am constantly reminded 
         of how much better I look

inside-out. It was in Kevin’s backyard 
         where I learned how to swallow

         a boot or two.
         This was the birthplace of my knees,

new cells coating the gravel, red lesions 
         like fat worms along my legs.

I didn’t always hate them—the boys I mean. 
It was the closest I’ve come to baptism.

Head locked against his naked torso. His sour sweat 
burning my eyes shut. That restless timbre

growing in my head, as I pursed my lips and pressed 
         my face into his ribs, left a trail of saliva

along his bare skin. Muscles withered
         and dried out as he pushed me away, disgusted

         at how hard my pulse had become 
in his arms. This is how the summer opened

its wet mouth, how it wrung the blood 
                         from a body and rebuilt it
                                                    from the mud.

From This Way to the Sugar (Write Bloody Publishing, 2014) by Hieu Minh Nguyen. Copyright © 2014 by Hieu Minh Nguyen. Used with the permission of the author.