Christopher Stephen Soden explores the uncertainty of queer youth—and perhaps youth in general—in this vivid poem.
I cannot tell you why I picked
Barbra Streisand in Central Park,
the first time I bought an album,
or why I chose the lavender shirt,
or watch with leather cuff, or
I guess, what might have been
considered long hair for a 15-year-old
boy visiting Mexico for the first time.
I asked myself these questions,
though of all the queasy, melancholy
revelations, one in particular
went undetected. Not the grisly crucifixes
with unforgiving saviors, martyrs crawling
Rivera murals, vivid with depictions
of corruption and anarchy, the rainy evenings
I spent reading (while grownups sought
refuge in rum and jazz and tobacco)
about Lenny Bruce, avant-garde bi-sexual
comic who took enemas for side effects
of mainlining smack, covered windows
with foil to block vestigial sunlight.
You wonder what you might have done,
or said, when the customs official told you
to step into a small room, where he
gingerly squeezed your crotch, watching
your response. I was puzzled but not
alarmed, figuring it was just another
guy thing, outside my realm
of the uninitiated. This was before I
understood what he thought he knew,
or why things happen in the world,
and I’ve got to tell you, I still don’t.
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