• Robert L. Giron

Issue 153

In this issue, we feature finalists in the 2021 Gival Press Oscar Wilde Award.

Mark Yale Harris

Crush

Medium: In glass and in bronze

Dimensions: 11"x14.5"x3.5"

Copyright © by Mark Yale Harris


Journey

Year 2018

Medium: Alabaster and steel

Dimensions: 27"x7"x14"

Copyright © by Mark Yale Harris


About the Artist

Born in Buffalo, New York, Mark Yale Harris spent his childhood enthralled in a world of drawing and painting. Though honored for his creative endeavors, he was encouraged to pursue a more conventional career. After finding conventional success, the artistic passion that existed just beneath the surface was able to present itself. Harris began sculpting, and has since created an evolving body of work in stone and bronze, now featured in public collections, museums and galleries worldwide, including: Hilton Hotels; Royal Academy of London; Marin MOCA; Four Seasons Hotels and the Open Air Museum - Ube, Japan



Jendi Reiter

when people look at me I want them to think, there's one of those people


I took a certain pleasure in informing the gender clinic that even though their program told me I could not live as a Gay man, it looks like I'm going to die like one.

—Lou Sullivan (1951-91)


Leather, stitches, pills — while you were proudly burning

your short life into hidden histories

like initialed hearts

pen-knifed in an oak,

I was slouching in lace,

every adventure stopped for questioning

at the border of my bleeding age.


Do you want to fuck a boy or be one?

Do you want to be kissed or important?


On a one-question test the lesson

of flying colors is:

loneliness is only legible in the wrong clothes.


But you, too, loved the pony sparkle of diaries

unlocking with a flirtatious click

like high heels tossed on a bedroom floor.

Your passable soprano screams for troubled

boys with dirty guitars didn't stop you

from swaggering, short and bound

for a private victory, into the dancing men's darkness.


I was raised on stories of not being believed —

the one about the switched drink,

two bodies in a car, the girl

who becomes graffiti instead of a woman —

and the only other one, supposed to encourage us

to read Shakespeare and walk on the moon,

as long as we removed the concealing

helmet to be end-of-episode brides.


People die of everything, Lou,

don't let them turn

your brief time to be honest into a disease.


It's a girl thing, to bond over betrayal

by our bodies' dumb delight

as if wounds make us better than the men we wanted.

We're tired of that.


Three decades from your final transition

to spirit, those who cursed you with pious cautions

now plead their pale innocence breathing

casual contagion on the American feast.


Ancestor, carry me, your brother

through this unromantic plague.


Semi-finalist for the 2021 Gival Press Oscar Wilde Award. This poem will be included in their forthcoming collection, Made Man (Little Red Tree, 2022).

Copyright © 2021 by Jendi Reiter


About the Author

Jendi Reiter is the author of the novel Two Natures (Saddle Road Press, 2016), the short story collection An Incomplete List of My Wishes (Sunshot Press, 2018), and four poetry books and chapbooks, most recently Bullies in Love (Little Red Tree, 2015). Awards include a Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship for Poetry, the New Letters Prize for Fiction, the Wag's Revue Poetry Prize, the Bayou Magazine Editor's Prize in Fiction, and two awards from the Poetry Society of America. Two Natures won the Rainbow Award for Best Gay Contemporary Fiction and was a finalist for the Book Excellence Awards and the Lascaux Prize for Fiction. Reiter is the editor of WinningWriters.com, an online resource site with contests and markets for creative writers.



Robert Cataldo

Erased


for Preston Byrd Lightsey


The zinnias,

lemon yellow,

pumpkin,

vermilion,

gold and lavender,

were bunched together

in tall tomato cans,

equally bright.


Customers admired

your brilliant eye

for effect.


The tomato cans,

regrettably,

were not for sale.


Your shop in ’77,

I’m told,

one of the few,

was a gay-friendly

oasis

for young men on break.


On a wall

in a Provincetown condominium,

you hung a picture

of two men in bed:

shirtless,

one reaches down

to get something on the floor;

the artist’s self-portrait,

miniscule,

foreshortened,

I made out

on the round, shiny surface

of the wooden post.


Not without mischief,

you gave the painting

a telling name:

Reaching for the K-Y.


This year

at Christmas

your card didn’t arrive

the first

or second of December,

nor did we hear

your drawling voice

at the other end

of the line;

we grew concerned.


I mailed a card

while Roger.

Googled your name:

Preston Lightsey.

Surprisingly,

a photo,

an obituary came up;

your thick moustache

is now white.

You died a few days before,

we learn later,

with Lewy Body Dementia.


The obituary tells us

things we don’t know,

but things we do:

your thirty years here

in Providence,

the shop,

a Provincetown condo,

lovers and gay friends

have been omitted,

as if a life before dementia

had been erased.


“A celebration of life…,”

no irony here,

“will be held

at a later date.”



Finalist for the 2021 Gival Press Oscar Wilde Award.

Copyright © 2021 by Robert Cataldo.


About the Author

Robert Cataldo is the author of four novels and a memoir, whose work has appeared in Bay Windows, Zone, a feminist journal for women and men, Backspace, and the Arlington Literary Journal, among others. His poem "Ancient Find" was published in Gradiva, International Journal of Italian Poetry, 2014. A travel essay of his on visiting the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy's flat in Alexandria, Egypt is being featured currently in Thoughtful Dog. Robert lives in Providence with his partner of forty-three years.



Eugene O'Connor

Gerard Manley Hopkins's Nightfall Fancies


Tonight, as the sun dips below

the city’s cramped horizon,


setting its smog on fire,

I, at the end of another tiring day,


run chalk-coated fingers

through my thinning hair.


I survey my barren room

with its narrow bed,


basin and pitcher, a small mirror

to regard my haggard face—


so unlike that rascal Wilde’s silk trappings,

his fine suite at the Ritz,


indulging his taste in rent boys—shit smutch

on the satin sheets, smears of lubricant.


I’ll sleep as always alone in bed,

where I might dream myself of stout farmhands,


that blacksmith’s muscled arms

and sometimes (mea culpa) have a wank.


Or else, for a laugh, fancy myself

a curly-headed Ganymede who snares the eye of Jove


(king of gods and he wants me!)

and is borne aloft to heaven


to serve him wine on a golden salver—

red wine to moisten my dry mouth


and soothe me into sleep before light rises

on another day in class to endure


my students’ mocking laughter, their execrable Latin,

me expostulating with my skinny arms


and running narrow fingers

through my chalk-raked hair.



Finalist for the 2021 Gival Press Oscar Wilde Award.

Copyright © 2021 by Eugene O'Connor.


About the Author

Eugene O'Connor is a poet and writer who lives with his husband in Columbus, Ohio. In 2017 he retired from his position as Editor in Classics and Medieval Studies at The Ohio State University Press. His scholarly publications include an English translation, with introduction and notes, of the Renaissance humanist Antonio Beccadelli's Hermaphroditus. His poems and translations have appeared in both print and online journals and collections, including The Classical Bulletin, The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature, The Comstock Review, Mead, Poetry Pacific, Pudding Magazine, and Roman Poets of the Early Empire (Penguin). His essay on the queerness of Gerard Manley Hopkins appears in Victorian Poetry (vol. 58, no. 1, spring 2020). Hopkins's queerness is something that has as yet been too little explored.



Bryan R. Monte

Thin Strips of Latex and Fabric


“Isn’t it too warm to wear that?”

the wheelchair transport driver asks

staring at my surgical face mask,

his still hanging from a radio knob.


“Not as hot as being on a ventilator,”

I say, as his eyes widen

in the rearview mirror

and he quickly puts his on.


I’m relieved his side window isn’t open,

unable to move to avoid an airflow

in the back where I’m bolted

to the floor in my wheelchair.


He reminds me of the men

who complained when I insisted

they put on a condom or leave

during the previous pandemic,


who whined about a loss of feeling,

half of them dead before their 35th,

grateful for those thin strips of latex or fabric

that hopefully will help me see my 65th.



Finalist for the 2021 Gival Press Oscar Wilde Award.

Copyright 2021 by Bryan R. Monte.


About the Author

Bryan R. Monte is a writer, editor and anthropologist. He won second place in the 2021 Hippocrates Open Poetry and Medicine Prize Competition. His poetry has appeared in Assaracus, Bay Windows, Friends Journal, Irreantum, Poetry Pacific and the South Florida Poetry Journal as well as in the anthologies Gathered: Contemporary Quaker Poets (Sundress Publications, 2013), Immigration & Justice For Our Neighbors, (Celery City Press, 2017), Voices from the Fierce Intangible World, (SoFloPoJo Press, 2019), and in the 2021Hippocrates Prize Anthology, (The Hippocrates Press, 2021), and is forthcoming in Without a Doubt: poems illuminating faith, (New York Quarterly Books, 2022). He edits Amsterdam Quarterly.



J Brooke

Self-Portrait at Age 9 as Albert Cashier

You’re likely fuming at me being late phoning to check on you but I’m in a trans conference learning how much I have in common with Albert Cashier Did you never think it odd as a kid I garbed in camouflage carrying a rifle all around our apartment? Cashier enlisted in the army during the civil war, fought for three years until it was over. Your massive steel apartment door guarding perennially buffed marble floors sported your beloved double Medeco locks. Me, on high alert code red sleeping with my bayonet in bed. Did you not think bizarre, me patrolling our home chronically armed? Grenade beneath my pillow, index finger wearing the ring controlling the pin After the war Cashier worked as church janitor, cemetery worker, street lamplighter. Calculating the drop from my 4th story bedroom window repeatedly entertaining jumping not dying, my bed sheet parachute mitigating partial paralysis I’d weigh against my shortened sentence Cashier was allowed to vote after the war though women weren't allowed back then, no one knew Albert dressed his woman’s body as a man to work it out. Hiding perfectly still in my closet, hours zipped within my sleeping bag, elongating breath suspension imagining which door you’d allow Milly remove my body bag through In the end Cashier was buried in his civil war uniform and given full military funeral. If you die before I’m able to phone what would you like to be buried in? Black? dark dirt on cheeks where blush otherwise goes—Dressed as me at nine years you could maybe feel what I felt crawling around POW-style praying allies, liberators, emancipators could appear. Semi-finalist for the 2021 Gival Press Oscar Wilde Award. Copyright © 2021 by J Brooke.


About the Author

J Brooke (they/e) won Columbia Journal’s 2020 Womxn’s History Month Nonfiction Award, was a winner of Beyond Words Literary Magazine’s 2020 Dream Challenge, received Honorable Mentions in Craft Literary 2021 Flash Fiction Award and Streetlight Magazine's 2020 Essay Contest, was finalist for North American Review’s 2020 Kurt Vonnegut Prize and the Maine Review's 2021 Embody Award. Publications include Columbia Journal, Harvard Review, Maine Review, Southampton Review, Bangalore Review. Brooke was Nonfiction Editor of Stonecoast Review while receiving an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

Braden Hofeling

The Surface You


I am in love with the surface you.

It is not you I truly speak to

but a reflection-

the surface of a pristine pond,

where dark creatures hunt and swim

mere inches below the surface.


You are a fragment trying to be whole,

a single piece masquerading as the entire puzzle-

but I have felt your jagged edges.


No, people have not been kind to you.


You are covered with scars,

your image is a collection of broken things,

shattered expectations and monumental misunderstandings.


While I love the surface you,

the one smiling from the mirror's edge,

I must reach deeper

and pull you from your cage.


The only way to truly see you

is to set your façade shard-ways.



Semi-finalist for the 2021 Gival Press Oscar Wilde Award.

Copyright © 2021 by Braden Hofeling.


About the Author

Braden Hofeling is an emerging poet located in Portland, Oregon. He has two self-published collections of poetry with themes of mental health, coming of age, and religion. He is working on a third collection currently.



Vivian Imperiale

AIDS Epidemic Chain of Care


It started with one person

getting sick

and then sicker

until it became obvious

he couldn’t go it alone

so a friend stepped up

and was there through it all

until the end.


Then the friend got sick

and then sicker

until it became obvious

he couldn’t go it alone

so a friend stepped up

and was there through it all

until the end.


Then that friend got sick

and the pattern continued

on and on

and

on and on —

the sick friend

the helper

the sick helper

the next helper…


The initial innocence of thinking

that illness was rare

soon transformed into the realization

that it had a name

and AIDS was a hurricane

that walloped the community

from all directions,

destroying first the structure of lives

and then those lives themselves.


It started with one person

and ended when the hurricane

left nobody I knew in its wake.

Semi-finalist for the 2021 Gival Press Oscar Wilde Award.

Copyright © 2021 by Vivian Imperiale.


About the Author

Vivian Imperiale uses poetry to memorialize and honor her closest friend lost to AIDS in 1985. She lives in San Francisco and has been published on websites, in journals and in anthologies.



Olivia Elle

The Gay Experience: F for Faith, F for—


We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church,

but some do not believe in us.

They name us trespasser.

They name us sinner.

They command us to repent

as they throw insults in our faces,

bullets in our bodies—as they nail

our souls to the cross.


They abandon us alive,

flames of pain licking at our lungs

and pierced hands, burrowing

into our thoughts until we cannot help but wonder

what if. What if

there is some truth—


Some of us wither under the weight,

lungs raw and aching and oxygen-deprived,

and for whose sake are they crucified?


Others grow stronger;

feeding on fire we turn to rebellion

and revolution as we fight

for the resurrection of the dead

and the acceptance of the world to come.

Our House built crosses within us

long before they reached for nails,

and our God refuses to let us burn.

He teaches love,

He who made us,

so we refuse to concede ours.


We sit in confessionals,

the command to repent

ringing in our memories.

They named us sinner;

they named us trespasser.

But these are not our sins,

and we will not obey.



Semi-finalist for the 2021 Gival Press Oscar Wilde Award.

Copyright © 2021 by Olivia Elle.


About the Author

Olivia Elle (she/her) currently lives in Virginia. She graduated from Emerson College in 2020, and currently attends Johns Hopkins University’s Master’s program. In 2015, she self-published her book Tales of a Navy Brat: An Anthology, and has since published her short stories “Obsidian” and “A Dragon’s Guide to the Many Uses of Ovens” in Generic. She has worked as an editor and copyeditor for multiple literary magazines and presses, including Generic and Emerson’s Undergraduate Students for Publishing.



Saralyn Caine

Softer Petals


Between my legs I feel his swell

and I hear yes, this is normal,

invite him in, be the soil for his seed…


I anticipate the kiss of his ivy leaf,

but it cannot compare

to the softer petals of my youth—


those roses and irises,

lilies and marigolds

that delighted and rested

on my silken ground in auras

of sweet pea and strawberry fields.


Hers

is a pussy willow bud

I long to pluck

and place upon my cheek.


Fingers tingle

like the tip of a fox’s tail

tickling, teasing garden flesh.


I wish he’d let me explore

the wilderness a while

longer, before potting me

in this greenhouse he built

to keep out the wild

evening primrose.


I am left blank and barren

by the lack of her lips

and

by the lack of his swell.



Semi-finalist for the 2021 Gival Press Oscar Wilde Award.

Copyright © 2021 by Saralyn Caine.


About the Author

Saralyn Caine is a biromantic feminist masquerading as a conventional wife (but not mother). While she loves both men and women, she loves words more. She has been published in various college literary magazines and The Poet’s Haven Digest. Her debut poetry collection, Magic & Mayhem, is available on Amazon.

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