I don’t smell like soap. I smell like whore steam motel carpet beer, not imported, domestic, and stand a man to watch you walk in.
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Beginning Middle Man. Its poetry is surprisingly straightforward, honest and strong, adult without apology. All gay-eros, all the time, a way of remaining true to what I’ve known since I was 17: if we’re not talking about sex, then we’re not talking about ourselves.
These poems are like most men I know and love, rough around the edges and awkward in the extreme. But still beautiful.
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How do I sift history into sound
cut pain into letters
spell you with words
that cleave night from day
right from wrong
lie from truth?
Awe floats —
leaf in windless landscape
your heat —
and so I burn my noisy nets,
kiss my love,
There’s an elk living upstairs.
I can tell by the lumbering.
crash against the straining floor,
I’m sure his thighs —
they ripple with fat-stores
as he smashes from room to room,
not sure why he’s there.
when he makes love,
grunts around each night
mounts the elk-lette,
even his strange body
fades into power
and little elks.
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I studied the bar for possible moods — what was the one I felt yesterday, right after the Manhattan? Was that CareFreeMelancholy? or CitySad mixed with WindSweptLoneliness? WoeIsMe? No. Wait. I sent that first one back, got a TallBud and rode AwesomeConvo and his wingman, BroLove into the land of FuckAin’tItSolid! Or was that the AMF?
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That ladybug sits on that green leaf before its silken buzzy wings remind me I was somewhere too. — “What were you saying?”
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“You want me to stay?” The beginning that unfolds to an end I won’t like. Kill that tale now, before it becomes our story. “No. But thank you.” “Really?” he says, eyebrows newly engaged, the way they rose before, before this had to mean. “Yes.” Then he kissed my hand like a man does a magistrate. Got dressed fast — maybe I’d change my mind. One last glance back as we began better.
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“Did you ever notice,” Tate asks as he pulls down his shorts, “that when they ask, ‘What’s your dream?’ like they do in that stupid movie —” he turns around to face the tall white letters — “about the prostitute with a heart of gold — what was it? Oh, yeah, Pretty Woman — that they never — camera ready?” I say yes, the camera is ready. Tate opens wide his arms to The Sign, hefted cheeks glistening, reflecting the sun, flexing newfound freedom, a bounce… “ — really let you choose off-menu?” The phone makes the sound cameras make, a sharp click, as if something real just happened. “Know what I mean?” he asks as he pulls up his lucky shorts.
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Library of Memory, finger on the spines that hold together me. Oh, I do not like this book! (Though I’ve read it a thousand times.) I was too young to understand. How was I to know? (I knew.) One night sags the shelf that ought to be in the Restricted Section (like the old days, when you had to ask for the books with drawings). These spines are warped. Horrible! I move on. My, this one is beautiful. Just look at its golden cover: “Full of greeting cards and fairy tales.” Here, I learn right from wrong and begin to build My Best Self. Things work out in this book (just like a Hollywood movie). Grandma really likes it. I really should read it someday. But they said I could take out only one. Maybe this one? Bright and Sunny Days? And there are other rooms, futures I’ve never visited, a place for faith. Philosophy. I really should… as I bow my head, reach for Mistakes and turn to you.
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“You should call security. These homeless people.” But there was something else, some bit of sadness — “...always think it’s tragic when I’m the one paying rent...” — behind still-hopeful eyes, as a silly heart-shaped balloon floated forward, started to sag. “in our building? Was he good looking?” What? His eyes shut mine against the breach. So much to give as you focus parts, abs and arms alone, always. But those weighted lips, like waves, carried dreams until they reached my shore..
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