- Jeff Walt
Issue 149 - LGBTQ Poetry
Updated: Jan 30, 2022
In this special LGBTQ poetry issue edited by Jeff Walt, we feature work by
Robert Carr, and
Copyright © Elovkoff.
Litany After a Week’s Worth of Rain
I asked my body if it could bear indifference.
Then I asked about consequences.
& apology & musk straddling a bent knee.
I asked for permission in a language I translated into silence.
I asked the moon how it felt to be consumed.
I asked for a bridge soldered from insecurity.
Each night the bed asked for proof,
& then the next night, & the one that followed.
When I asked him what it meant to wake beyond
his golden hour, the darkness made of my mouth
a room where I wished him
unmarried. Loneliness asked our hands
how long they’d been apart. I asked
disappointment to sweeten his gums,
but only before I asked less
of his bones, & more of the mercies my teeth picked clean.
Sometimes I asked the sweet calligraphy he storied along my throat
to speak, & when it did the days crawled
back inside of me. Because I could not leave
him, I asked denial to soothe the blow, & the blow
burdened my suffering with gardens.
How could I not ask about beauty?
About doubt & shame, & the chimes outside
my window still kissing
after a week’s worth of rain. He asked,
during love, to press against the version of me where hunger
spent the whole night running.
& I let him I let him I let him.
Without forgiveness, without blessing.
The way the sun strikes every mirrored surface,
& asks nothing of its own reflection.
Copyright © 2021 by Michael Boccardo.
About the Author
Michael Boccardo’s poems have appeared in various journals, including Kestrel, storySouth, Santa Clara Review, Mid-American Review, Iron Horse, The Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, Nimrod, Cimarron Review, and Best New Poets, as well as the anthologies Spaces Between Us: Poetry, Prose, and Art on HIV/AIDS and Southern Poetry Anthology, VII: North Carolina. He is a four-time Pushcart Nominee and a finalist for the James Wright Poetry Award. He resides in High Point, NC, with three rambunctious tuxedo cats. Additional work can be found at www.michaelboccardo.com.
I can’t quit looking when, on the jam-packed train, a woman slips her tank aside, lifts a nipple to her infant’s lips. So casual, like the new mother at work who leans against a restroom stall, making small talk while the machine affixed to her chest whirrs away. I want to avert my gaze
but I too know how to objectify, despite my best feminist attempts to undo what magazines and videos—all those cleavage shots—have taught me. Once, in lieu of a women’s studies exam, I sat with college classmates to take topless teatime on the quad. I clutched my mug
just so, upholding my activist path. I did my utmost not to gawk, to brush off taunts, to act natural, but I was not born this way, sporting this klutzy flapping albatross, swaying lumps that bump and squish against bartops, that hurt if I so much as jog. At six I first saw through
my older sister the body time would equip me with, how the smooth, unbroken country over my ribs would round to hills, to dunes shifting with the wind. I implored every god who might listen to rescue me from destiny, to exorcize these unruly imps of flesh. Some divinity enjoyed
a laugh at that, delivered an abundance I cannot flatten with any manner of contraption, except for a binder tight enough to muzzle my breath. Maybe another deity put in my path each partner who, with one liquid flick, could conjure a thrill of wonder from what I’d tried to
hide. Surely a higher power placed me among a sea of queens who, before a pride parade, peeled off my bra, bedazzled my bare skin, whooped as I shook my jewel-clad moneymakers,
my rack, my jugs, my cans, all my mama gave me, sexy sacks of dense, unused milk glands
that I haul into the doctor each year to be checked for error in the code, for fatal defect. Now, in the bath, I elect not removal but reacquaintance, marvel at your vexing heft bent by a hazy plane of water into the optic trick through which you break our jail, finally float free from me.
Copyright © 2021 by Jennifer Perrine.
About the Author
Jennifer Perrine is the award-winning author of four books of poetry: Again, The Body Is No Machine, In the Human Zoo, and No Confession, No Mass. Their recent short stories and essays appear in The Gay & Lesbian Review, Valparaiso Fiction Review, and Literal Latte. Perrine lives in Portland, Oregon, where they co-host the Incite: Queer Writers Read series and teach creative writing and embodied social justice practices to youth and adults. To learn more, visit www.jenniferperrine.org.
Shoot to Kill, or, You’ll Be Glad You Used Glade
Since I’m a fifth-grade fag
who gets throttled in the skunk-cabbage swamp
where the teacher’s aide can’t see,
better to pretend I’m
the high-heeled mom in the commercial
protecting her split-level family—
the Glade Lady who shields what she can
from what reeks. Better to press with a manicured finger
a recessed plastic button as gracefully
curved as an Edsel’s dashboard.
Better to target with—look—disodium phosphate
any enclosed & tight spaces
where germs or Viet Cong
cluster: diaper pails, disposals,
fringed ditches around rice fields
egg-beaten by helicopters. No place to hide.
No way to escape.
Better to say my tummy aches & stay home.
Better to wave a sweeping wand—
oh, if I had a wand like Glinda’s
that would—poof!—change me into a spray of freesia
guaranteed by the makers of Johnson’s Wax.
On TV, above the coffee klatch’s bridge game,
one curlicue squirt, & stuffiness just seems to vanish.
Better not propose a science project
tracking the fate of floral-sachet molecules,
whether they sponge overcast skies. A trade secret
makes indoor air fresh as all outdoors.
Better not mail in a postcard
asking for the ingredients.
At quarter past noon, the news anchor
tallies yesterday’s usual
domino death toll.
As the world turns, better to glide
with an Aqua-Netted bob
from toilet to hair trap to garbage can
in a starched, full-skirted dress.
Better not wonder what mothers ask themselves
during afternoons over irons.
Better not dwell on rice.
Instead I advance, finger poised
to make cigarette smoke & last night’s
liver fumes sweet as a spring shower
thanks to a harmless chemical
that eradicates odors & frees up
an hour for girly boys
to inch into elbow-length rubber gloves
& savor the zest of miraculous
Easy-Off as it turns hard
black grease into soft brown soap
I just rinse down the drain.
Copyright © 2021 by Steven Riel.
About the Author
Steven Riel is the author of one full-length collection of poetry, Fellow Odd Fellow (Trio House, 2014), with another, Edgemere, forthcoming in Sept. 2021. His most recent chapbook Postcard from P-town was published as runner-up for the inaugural Robin Becker Chapbook Prize. His poems have appeared in several anthologies and numerous periodicals, including The Minnesota Review and International Poetry Review. He currently serves as editor-in-chief of the Franco-American literary e-journal Résonance.
To the hummingbird a dog is not as fast as a cat.
But the teeth glint.
Does the night never really come
at all in these
two weeks in the gut of summer?
Not in the moon skirting the horizon, or in azure hue,
stars settle in a mouth-shape in the trees
until the mouth line glows
with a neighbor’s quiet approach.
So we fill a glass to share, liquid in and out,
until our red bodies burn—
until the itch of salt water, like a gentle thought,
rinses off in shower.
Copyright © 2021 by EJ Colen.
About the Author
Queer artist / teacher /editor /writer EJ Colen’s books include What Weaponry, a novel in prose poems, poetry collections Money for Sunsets (Lambda Literary Award and Audre Lorde Award finalist) and Waiting Up for the End of the World: Conspiracies, flash fiction collection Dear Mother Monster, Dear Daughter Mistake, book-length lyric essay The Green Condition, and fiction collaboration True Ash. Nonfiction editor at Tupelo Press and freelance editor/manuscript consultant, EJ teaches at Western Washington University.
Stepping out a Sliding Glass Door after William Stafford Stepping out my sliding glass door I find a Lesser Goldfinch lying on its side, stilled upon impact. There are a great many windows here, to bring the outside in—wind rush, Star Jasmine’s perfume, the clatter of crows. The sun can be relentless in Southern California, glass panes mirroring the trees and birds back to themselves, dazzling mirages of the real behind them. I cradle the tiny bird in my hand, body still soft and lukewarm, pupils fixed, the claws on its feet curved, as if clinging to the memory of a slender branch that held its slight body upright. I don’t know how one can fairly call this bright being lesser. I stroke the finch’s yellow chest, defend his worth to the universe and apologize--in a language clumsy and unmelodic—for having so many windows, for my home’s oversized footprint. The need comes upon me more each day to do some sort of penance for all we humans have broken, to move beyond witness and elegy, extract more kindness from my heart before asking forgiveness from the disappeared.
Copyright © 2021 by Debbie Hall.
About the Author
Debbie Hall is a writer whose poetry has been published in the San Diego Poetry Annual, Sixfold, Poets Reading the News, Writers Resist, Bird’s Thumb, Califragile, Gyroscope Review, Hawaii Pacific Review, Pulse and elsewhere. Her essays have appeared on NPR (This I Believe series), in USD Magazine, and the San Diego Union Tribune. She is the author of the poetry collection, What Light I Have (2018, Main Street Rag Books), a finalist for the San Diego Book Awards and an award-winning chapbook, Falling into the River (2020, The Poetry Box). She received an honorable mention in the inaugural 2016 Kowit Poetry Prize.
José Enrique Medina
Let’s suppose that you love me, that the pipes squeak
when you turn on the water and fill the tub.
Is it day or night—in your imagination?
Please say day, because I want to see
the sun hooked on the little golden hairs
on your legs, I want to see
the vein between your toes jump
when you stand on the ball of your foot
the moment before entering
There’s a triangle of light
on the floor, a piece of the day
entering through the window,
making the orange tones and black freckles
on the maple boards.
My robe falls
in that triangle.
Copyright © 2021 by José Enrique Medina.
About the Author
José Enrique Medina earned his BA in English from Cornell University. He writes poems, flash fiction and short stories. His work has appeared in Best Microfiction 2019 Anthology, The Los Angeles Review, and San Diego Poetry Annual. He is a Voices of Our Nation (VONA) fellow.
Grindr Dick Pic
—Ceci n’est pas une pipe
This is not a pipe.
It’s a Freudian archetype.
To hook up with your type—
be it stove pipe, blow pipe,
or perhaps an overripe pipe—
swipe left or swipe right.
This is not a pipe
but it’s circum-sized.
Copyright © 2021 by Steven Cordova.
About the Author
Steven Cordova’s full-length collection of poetry, Long Distance, was published by Bilingual Review Press in 2010. His poems are forthcoming in New Orleans Review, and have appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, Callaloo, The Journal, Notre Dame Review, and the Los Angeles Review. From San Antonio, TX, he lives in Brooklyn, New York.
The Suicide Dinner
Chilled wine tilts in silver sleeves
as conversation turns
to end of life— romantic ways
they’d like to go. These men I love
understand, bristled brushes
with death—all good talkers
though over salmon I’m in no mood
for unlikely endings.
My attention drifts through
open windows, beyond the dining table,
where gnarled hemlocks creak.
My old friend describes a favorite
red, the 2014 Opus One he’d take
down to the dock at twilight.
Seconal, piled like salted almonds
in his dead mother’s gilded bowl.
I’m unconvinced. He has no cash,
no idea where to find Barbiturates.
This friend’s husband loves an ocean
swim, says he’d go at high tide
in Penobscot Bay, clockwise swirl
of currents, Virginia Woolf. But no,
he couldn’t give up the sun.
We catch up on the latest signs
of age—prostate grapefruit, sun-
mottled scalps. The youngest of us
describes his latest vampire facial.
Centrifuged, blood cells smeared
on punctured skin by handsome cosmeticians.
He’s always looked for love in
younger men, convinced he’ll die alone.
Tall hemlocks, waving near arched
windows, aren’t deadly. They just live
with a lethal name. I finish my ice water.
I’ve looked into deep hemlock,
spotted cowbane, stems veined
purple as old arms mistaken for wild carrots.
My sock drawer’s lined with amber
bottles, overprescribed for pain.
Hemlock neurotoxin grows just down
the street. I’ve seen it mimicking
Queen Ann’s Lace, Valerian Root,
Ginseng. I make a wicked tea.
My husband’s last to speak,
evokes a Catholic God—recalls
his mother’s Alzheimer’s, the threat
of mirrors when one no longer
recognizes self. He won’t die by his hand,
can’t imagine forgiveness
from a God he’s not sure he believes in.
Over macerated plums, Stephen
describes a recurring dream:
I throw him through stained-glass windows
in a high rise we once owned.
He suspects if he becomes his mother,
I’ll push him along.
Copyright © 2021 by Robert Carr.
About the Author
Robert Carr is the author of Amaranth, published in 2016 by Indolent Books and The Unbuttoned Eye, a full-length 2019 collection from 3: A Taos Press. Among other publications his poetry appears in the American Journal of Poetry, Crab Orchard, Massachusetts Review, Rattle, and Shenandoah. Robert recently retired from a career as Deputy Director for the Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Additional information can be found at robertcarr.org.
I heard Mrs. Lee scream Kill me! Kill me!
from inside her house and I did not move.
At noon, the dogs in the neighborhood
began barking. Hear something, did they,
that they couldn’t bear?
The television said E. coli lurks
in my laundry and kitchen sponge, and toxic
waste has leaked into the drinking water.
A bright disc with many lights hovered
in the afternoon sky above the backyard fence.
A small child came to my door and asked
if I wanted to buy a chance—Yes more chances,
I said, and took twenty. Now between the blinds
bats start to swoop nooses.
The sharp moon appears, machete
Copyright © 2021 by Jeff Walt.
About the Author
Jeff Walt has work in Cimarron Review and the anthology,
Shit Men Say to Me: A Poetry Anthology in Response to Toxic Masculinity
(Moon Tide Press, 2021). His Book, Leave Smoke (Gival Press, 2019),
won the 2020 Housatonic Book Award in Poetry.
Copyright © by Faustasyan.