© 2018 by Undone: A Legacy of  Queer (Re)imaginings. Sponsored by Brown University's LGBTQ Center

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Issue 1: Queering Across Borders


Stupid Fable

By Michael J. Abraham          June 10, 2019

Stupid Fable

The Children's Crusade


Stupid Fable


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

nd redden.

Underlyn quiet and full of sad monsters:

Animals as drums, dancing

atop pillars of sand, left there,

one afternoon,

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

it is:


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

to you;

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

an orangutan.’


True. What if you try something not

about apes?


‘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.’


Try again.

‘Wood is the same color as a wooden door.’


Try again.

‘Wood is the same color as a painting of a

wooden door.’



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

of paper.’



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

very warm!


‘Slow down!’ says my leg. ‘You don’t want

to be old when the children’s crusade comes

marching thru town!—


o, how


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,

imbrued ground!’



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

certainly won’t.’


. . .


‘A storyteller is the same shape as a man.’


Try again.

‘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?’


. . .


Try again.


. . .


‘A man that I love is the beginning and end,

the bright, incandescent bulb I’ll finally

open up and swallow?’


. . .


O, kiddo—


try again.




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

or more.


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.