Nerve

nerve3
Image by Andrew Beers.

Out at a queer party,

kind of bored.
Worried about the long, late walk home.

Think of glitter
soaked in gasoline.
It’s only 2014.

I remember lineage:
They called us sick.
Sick. Dying. Sick.
Slick mouthed in a bathroom stall.
Cops broke all the glass. The jukebox.
Smashed liquor bottles,
and the faces of queens

who spilt riot and scream
across the Village.

45 years isn’t a long time.
So many of us have died
long before 21

and here I am, still afraid
to leave my home—when I do,
dare to call the party “boring.”

Let me instead, remember, lineage
and call for a rare lover’s scent.

To die. To fall in love.
Miss our mothers
all while dancing.
It could be enough
to feed everyone.

I will only feed you.
Mirror the missing pieces.
If you want to love
I will take nothing,
just leave you spent—
writhing with soft,
gorgeous tremors.

I will teach you
the language I’ve studied
in dark, crowded parties
trying to show a soft neck
my justice.

Give me a rounded shoulder.
Matted hair. Anonymity
in a uniform body.
Give me fear. Space. To scream.
Blush. Taste. Fresh salt.
A nameless kiss
buried beneath song.
A nameless kid
is buried beneath sod
because they wanted
what I’m taking for granted.
This pulse,

wanted this kiss, this song, this guiltless unlonely,

but found that future impossible
and sank into nothingness.

So give me
a little liquor.
Warm night glow.
Space. Undulation.
Give me touch.

Another name. Hold me
down. So as not to float like smoke
fresh off so many ashes.

We have been sick. Dying.
Making new mothers.
My mouth is a kindness.
A perfect exit.
A perfect entrance.

This lineage.
Hundreds of years alive in shadow—
of course we’ve learned how to sing
while falling.

How to build a home in one song
to burn it in the next, laughing.

How to love without longevity,
but deep as a grave.

Of course we’ve learned how to see
what’s really in front of us,

especially in the dark,
under all that easy skin and nerve.

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