He’s carrying a large watermelon home
from the cooperative in a mesh bag.
Carrying a watermelon,
say two girls with lots of red lipstick
who giggle and jab each other,
look back to see if he’s heard.
After a massage, relaxed and smelling of rose oil,
he walks with strangers past a drunk,
who scrunches up his nose:
One of you is wearing too much perfume.
His hand is on his big straw hat
on a hot breezy day, when an old lady
crosses the avenue against him:
Wrong day for a hat like that.
Three little black boys call out
where they dance in the hydrant spray:
Are you gay?
Chasing after him
Blocks away their cries like wild birds
areyougay areyougay areyougay
He’s cutting fresh coriander, and out
the summer window light rain
makes yarrow bend into the dirt.
Wind chimes, thunder, dog-bark.
Neighbor’s voice, tired and soft:
Yeah, bark at God,
see where that gets you.
Finding Paul Monette, Losing Him
It’s just two days since I read you
two days since your Elegies for Rog grabbed me
in the stacks at the Brooklyn branch
grief eating through the binding like dragon blood
dripping through four stone floors
into the charming restaurant in the basement
I checked you out and brought you home
so I could love you and pity him in private
and cry for him and you and myself
I never burned up grief or anger with such song
never came within two bow-lengths of the paradise
of men’s hearts open to one another
I’ll check you out again and again
I think I’ll steal you
I don’t want to release you back to circulation
I study your picture on the sleeve for signs of sickness
search the flyleaf for year of publication
could you have survived 1987
so long ago dangerous year
to be a sick fag in America
In the cafe at the gay bookstore
I’m afraid to ask Do you know Monette
Did he make it The boys are so young
thumbing through pages of naked men
putting them back dogeared The boy
behind the counter doesn’t read poetry
I’m afraid of hope as I walk
to the back of the store PLEASE BE ALIVE
PLEASE BE among the M’s I run my hand
along the spines Maupin McClatchy Melville
until it rests on yours
I tear you open the suspense killing me
please please be living with the dogs
in the canyons somewhere north of Malibu
writing every day doing well on the new drugs
sleeping like spoons with a guy named
Peter Kenneth Michael or Gustavo
Your picture is harder thinner
face lined eyelids sagging “novelist poet essayist
AIDS activist who died”
You’re gone then
I’ve made it to the future a few years further
but who knows if I’ll reach your forty-nine
why bother reading your book anymore
what difference do poems make or love
So this is your last face a fox and rabbit kissing
even dead your name earns a “face-out”
guarantees those big sales
who gets the money now
YOU JERK FUCK YOU
ridiculous to die so close to a cure
renders you me us absurd
how quaint to die of this they’ll think in 2030
how nostalgically sepia-toned and old-timey
like dying of the flu for godssake or the clap
like talking on a windup telephone or
buying ice for the icebox
On the Net later
I cruise a guy who says he knew you
when you tried to live and love again with Winston
I’m hungry to hear anything about you
but he interrupts with a reflection of his cock
in a hand mirror in a garden of red hibiscus
so for a moment I almost easily forget my love
my love of two days
two days in which you were born loved wrote grieved died
Oh God in whom you never for one moment believed
will I still have time
—Poems from The Charge, Ausable Press, 2003 (since 2009 part of Copper Canyon Press).
Daylight Has Been Saved by Time Again
and now the late April
of the second summer of my fifties is already beginning to burn.
GET UP AND EARN
SOME MONEY is what that light, too much light, says, and also
MILLIONS OF PEOPLE
HAVE BEEN UP FOR HOURS. I know they have, they always have,
every time I keep
an appointment at eight I am astonished at the number of people
already on the road.
You lie lazy and came late to every phase, a voice like my old father’s
seems to allege.
“But,” I want to argue with the light, “though I came late, I came.”
There were years
in the 90s when it looked like I’d rush from spring to winter,
with the rest of my brothers
of the bars and baths and groves of reeds crushed into mazes.
Then I circled back
to have late spring, a real adolescence, even as others were wiping
their mouths of that meal.
Is it greedy then to request late summer, even early autumn?
To ask for a harvest, the wheat
ground so fine you could hold bread to the light and read through it?
Now summer and the work
of that light begin to press down like a kind of war on the earth,
and the real war lowers over us
its magnifying glass, and O my brothers of the bars and baths
and groves of reeds crushed into mazes,
who ate metal when the wood ought to have been green and then sank
under the frozen water:
let me rise to work, because there’s too much light to sleep.
—Poem from Nocturnes of the Brothel of Ruin, Four Way Books, 2012.