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The Silence Of Men

A man I’ve nev­er dreamed before walks
into my apart­ment and sits in the green
chair where I do my writ­ing. He car­ries
in his left hand a large erect penis
which he places silent­ly on the floor.
The phal­lus begins to waltz to music
I can­not hear, its scro­tum a skirt;
its tes­ti­cles, legs cut off at the knees.

I want to know why this dis­fig­ured
man­hood has been brought to me. I look up,
but my guest is gone. His organ, deflat­ing
in short spasms like an old man cough­ing,
spreads itself in a pool of shal­low blood.
The silence between us is the silence of men.

The Taste Of A Little Boy’s Trust

Snow still falling this late,
when each house framed
by the win­dow above my desk

is dark, and even my wife’s breath­ing
has grown indis­tin­guish­able
from the qui­et, snow still falling

as a truck rolls by, big-cat-svelte
on eigh­teen wheels, orange
run­ning lights spread­ing

up and down my block
a Hal­loween glow
in mid-Decem­ber,

like a space ves­sel land­ing,
bring­ing me the boy I was
stand­ing in the court­yard, search­ing

the descend­ing white­ness
for the shapes of ships
I longed to fly away on,

snow still falling this late
when I could be sleep­ing,
the way I should have been

the night I saw my moth­er nude,
and her friend on his back, and them both
too slow to hide what they were doing,

and I told my broth­er and we tried it,
and we tried to under­stand
why grown-ups did it—how could you let some­one

pee in your mouth?—snow still falling this late
is the whis­per we tried to laugh in, breath
the old man dropped, syl­la­ble—

when—by syl­la­ble—will I
see you?
—into my ear, and I
couldn’t move, wouldn’t,

and so it wasn’t me
who fol­lowed him upstairs, who lis­tened
to the lock click shut in the door, and it wasn’t me

whose belt he unbuck­led, and when
his pants joined mine on the floor, it wasn’t
me he pled with, whose head he used

both hands to pull towards him
when I balked, whose mind
at this moment always whites out

until it wasn’t me
who unlocked the door and walked
to where the snow is still falling,

as if even now he wait­ed
in the apart­ment above mine,
and no mat­ter how many times

my broth­er asks, I won’t go out,
not even to be first sled down
a vir­gin hill of the season’s new snow.


You come to my room
in the gray sweat­shirt
the lover you once asked me
to join you with

left for you to find
the morn­ing he flew
back to Barcelona.

Stretch­ing the sleep
out of your arms,
you let the jer­sey rise
just enough for me to see

there’s noth­ing under­neath
and smile the same smile
you gave that night

when I stood frozen
at the foot of your bed,
watch­ing you lift
the blan­ket. Yes I saw

he was inside you,
and yes you were both
beau­ti­ful, but it was you

sin­gu­lar I want­ed,
as I want you now
these last hours
before New York again

becomes my home.
Yes­ter­day, I fol­lowed
the nar­row streets of your city

past the small café
we sat in my first night here
till I came to the foun­tain
you said grant­ed you

the child­hood wish
you’ll nev­er reveal.
I could live here, I thought,

and here you are, and what is wait­ing
for me beyond the air­port is noth­ing
com­pared to the red-blond glow
the sun finds in your hair.

With your hands, you show me
where you want me,
and I bend to you,

part with my tongue
these lips that real­ly do
resem­ble rose petals,
and as if this room, this

house, were sud­den­ly mine
to offer you, I close my arms
around your waist, hold you

tight against this moment
that is not why I came to vis­it;
and from the night
that two weeks ago

almost end­ed
where we are right now,
your voice comes back to me,

What would you change?
And my answer,
I’d want not to be afraid,
but I real­ize I am afraid:

I could live here.
You push me back
onto the bed,

turn the clock
to the wall
and whis­per

The Speed And Weight Of Justice

You and I left this unfin­ished busi­ness
unfin­ished for too long, and now it’s late.
Your flight leaves in two days. Tomor­row,

I have a date to help an old friend replace
chi­na his ex-fiancée shat­tered against the wall
in their worst fight, which I wit­nessed. I’m

his lift to the ware­house, and then he
and his new girl­friend will join me
and my wife at our house for din­ner.

You’re smil­ing: Nar­ra­tive always leads us away
from what our bod­ies lean towards.
I want you, I say. You whis­per, Where can we go?

and it’s so much more touch than words
that I car­ry the sounds with me on the train
the way I would’ve car­ried the tex­ture

of your nip­ples on my palms. A man
parades in fatigues mut­ter­ing Kill
the bas­tards!
, pro­nounc­ing

each pas­sen­ger Dan­ger­ous!
who dares to meet his gaze. I retreat
to where your ques­tion takes me:

The scene plays, my flesh ris­es, and the dis­tance
this ride is putting between us van­ish­es
till the bell rings, the doors whoosh open

and I walk out squint­ing in sun­light
onto the streets of my mar­riage.
At the cor­ner, the slow noise

of after­noon love­mak­ing delights
a herd of teenagers who call to the win­dow,
urg­ing the lovers to show them­selves.

Across the street, a pale woman
holds tight to her shirt­less lover,
obliv­i­ous to the hard lock his eyes have

on the ass of a teenage boy,
whose blond hair hangs wet
to the small of his back. Behind them,

in the crowd of week­end shop­pers search­ing
for the bar­gains Jack­son Heights is known for,
anoth­er woman, her hejab com­ing loose,

two bags bal­anced in one arm, chas­es
a girl dressed in yel­low and white, whose head
the woman’s shout­ing final­ly turns. The child’s face,

scarred across the left cheek from jaw­bone
to upper lip, con­jures for me the acid
they said last night on TV seared the skin

in which anoth­er daugh­ter refused the man
her father chose for her; and the twelve-year-old bride
my stu­dent wrote about: tak­en

from her home in Spain to Afghanistan
and—a sin­gle let­ter mak­ing it almost
com­ic—pen­e­trat­ed anually…She couldn’t

leave her bed for three days. And in today’s mail:
a son too young yet to know he has a moth­er
will lose her: he has no legal father.

And they have already gath­ered the stones,
cho­sen with care not to cause too much dam­age
too soon, and dug the hole in which they’ll kill her,

and when the last rock shat­ters her last thought
they will call it jus­tice, and so to ask—
as I’ve been want­i­ng to do these past weeks—

where the jus­tice is in our hav­ing met
now, when our sep­a­rate lives sep­a­rate us,
or, rather, we allow them to, so much

more effec­tive­ly than the veils these women wore
pro­tect­ed them—to ask this is to ask pre­cise­ly what?
I stand at my front door, the key still in my pock­et,

and re-enter the room we nev­er gave our­selves
the chance to find. Maybe some­day we will,
but what would be dif­fer­ent? I’d still arrive

here, home, in love; still feel myself there,
with you, coax­ing, being coaxed into pres­ence,
until pres­ence is all we know, and shad­ows

are what we are of the com­plex beings
we believe our­selves to be: the peo­ple
we need always to come back to.

The Haunting

My bel­ly grows with every pound I gain,
accu­mu­lates like snow on a small hill.
My lover spreads her hands across the swell,
Does this child have a name? The grin
she offers, tal­is­man to dull the pain
her words are not intend­ed to instill,
wounds her face, cracks it like a shell.
Boy or girl? If you had to choose, which one?

I force myself to answer, laugh to hide
the half-acknowl­edged fear her ques­tions wake:
bod­ies ris­ing decom­posed from earth,
call­ing to their bones the skin of youth,
fuck­ing, giv­ing birth, then falling back:
their graves wombs; my life their mar­riage bed.

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