Issue 1: Queering Across Borders
By Michael J. Abraham June 10, 2019
Dropkick the sex rocket from Essex
three times, three times across
Underlyn Bridge. I want you, I’m horny,
stupid and taken, rucksack, burlap
flapping. Wind sound and stuff in the wind
making sounds down the street how
it flows with the cars and it goes,
and it goes.
There is an underneath, over there,
where I feel you, beating.
Your insides go under a
Underlyn quiet and full of sad monsters:
Animals as drums, dancing
atop pillars of sand, left there,
daydreaming about leaving, about
going back West.
The Bridge is a light rod thru
blue bottle evening spreads out of the left,
spreads and is studded with bright,
yellow flickers other people call lamps.
I can power thru this. I can tell you
what a dark, sticky place
Other side of the River that’s dying;
water’s dying, and everything
in the water is also dying,
because limits must be kept.
Underlyn story of dead fish and whiskey,
that’s all that this is. It’s done nothing
you’re meant nothing by it.
The Children’s Crusade
What a child knows is a secret for the child,
only after childhood ends, ends with secrets
spilling end over end, topsy turvy and
turning, roundels in his lap—my boyfriend’s
lap. He taught reading to children with
disabilities, and when I spoke too quickly,
had begun to breathe too fast, naked in bed
and July was a throbbing, city streets:
Cacophonous arteries, heavy, ready to open—
he reaches for my faces and says, ‘Once upon
a time’: A story about his student, nine or ten,
who has trouble with associations, comparisons,
for whom the childlike truth of, like, a monster
beneath the bed is neither balled-up sweater
nor trick of the light:
‘A gorilla is the same size as an ape.’
Yes, try again.
‘A gorilla is the same size as about
True. What if you try something not
‘A gorilla is the same size as a large
Granted. That would be the case. Tell me
about what . . . a gorilla looks like compared
to other things, things . . . very different
from gorillas . . . but about the same size.
‘A gorilla is the same size as a large
Well, yeah. That’s true. It is. How about
Then the car is slipping down the freeway,
but there’s no music playing. A semi-truck
slides across the westbound bridge. The sound
of time collapsing, and I want to hold his hand,
so I take it. He rests it on my thigh.
I stare at the water.
He tells one, later, like this:
‘Wood is the same color as a tree trunk.’
‘Wood is the same color as a wooden door.’
‘Wood is the same color as a painting of a
What is there to say, really, about the color
of wood though?
A wooden door, and a tree trunk,
and a boy is a thing that grows.
One day, there’s a breakthru:
‘A snowy owl is the same color as a piece
After that, I spend the day scrawling nonsense
on tree trunks, eating time—time,
so the owl may stay, stay young and sing.
But then it’s dark. My leg is a radiator riding
passenger; my leg is as hot as a leg that is
‘Slow down!’ says my leg. ‘You don’t want
to be old when the children’s crusade comes
marching thru town!—
a thing is a thing then, and a boy can make birds
out of paper, let them dive off the trees—
how it’s summer!—
and later, we all ring round, singing and
dancing, painted and wild, while the woods burn
down, and paper owls fall crying violet songs,
violent songs, folk tales, fairy tails,
charms and hexes, to the stark-pale,
Car window, a gasp of sunrise. I worry
if he’ll come back to me sometime, once
he’s gone, and wood is still only the color
of some boy’s bedroom door, or another’s.
‘What are you ready to do to stop this?’ he
asks, and he gestures to the space between
my teeth, wider every day; longer, the door
into the roots and the twists of my insides.
‘Will it stop?’ I ask. ‘No,’ he says. ‘No, it most
. . .
‘A storyteller is the same shape as a man.’
‘A storyteller is the same shape as his story.
No, wait: A storyteller is the same shape as the
children who hear him tell a story.’
. . .
And the children?
. . .
‘A child is the same shape as a terrible flame,
bright, and fleeting.’
This is the wide angle shot of me at the bus
station, a cigarette in the teeth and uppers
in my backpack; this is the high-art
moment, where I get old suddenly,
and he stands at the periphery, trying to go
where we’ve been already—back,
back in time.
(I’m at the bus station to meet him, and, fluttering,
the bad news in my stomach.)
. . .
‘A man that I love is the same size, or color,
or shape as the love, right?’
. . .
. . .
‘A man that I love is the beginning and end,
the bright, incandescent bulb I’ll finally
open up and swallow?’
. . .
A boy is a thing made mostly
of rough copper wire and fine
window dressings. A thing
which first draws itself up
in the midst of colors very
bright, floral patterns on
Sister’s first few Easter dresses; t
he way the hands of other
boys feel in the lake,
in summertime, when
they are grabbed for a moment
There is grass in a boy,
and usually it is long and windswept. This grass acts
as harbinger for other things
in a boy, like July evenings
and the bonfire too close,
and closer still. The grass
is near the trees, which don’t mean
anything, but provide marvelous
shade. There are flowers
hidden in the grasses, and these
are more secret.
A boy disappears every time
he sees his own reflection
in a passing car. This is owing,
mostly, to the way a boy
wants to be an unwavering
flame in the dark, a great pillar
of light, like God in Exodus.
And to see oneself any other way
is, for a boy, an unravelling:
A boy so desperately wants to be
something other that he will
burn down the night.
A boy is a thing with chapped
lips and rutted joints and bones
everywhere. A thing that fucks
because fucking is like water,
and that swims because water
is like fucking. This circle
makes sense to a thing like a boy.
A boy always thinks in circles.
A boy thinks in circles because
it is easiest to dance in circles, a
nd thinking is dancing,
its whoop and its raging.
A boy never stops smoking cigarettes.
He likes that cigarettes and flowers
are, in some ways but not all,
similar to one another. Knowing this
means he knows also what is inside
always, even if he avoids the name
of it constantly. This constancy—
this constancy of reticence—
are characteristic of the thing
that is a boy—which is not to say
that a boy is a thing that continues:
A boy is constant interruption.
If nothing else is understood,
it should be understood that a boy
is very similar to a morning,
by an evaluation of similarity
much like the cigarette and the flower.
This is where the fire comes from,
and the wine, and, too, the fear
that gives form first to a boy’s
silence. A boy is not not a girl,
but a boy is also not a loveliness.
A boy is not a deferral of loveliness
but a scene in which it means nothing.
Michael J. Abraham is a PhD student in the English Department at Yale University. His research interests include modernist poetics; formulations of racial, gender, and sexual identity in American literature of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; and the history of psychology and therapeutic practice. His poetry has appeared in Palimpsest, Poets Reading the News, and The Minetta Review, among others. He lives in Harlem.