Roy G. Guzmán
What we momentarily dubbed permission
was fiery ocean-wrapped crag, toeless oath.
This was our death dance, a slight whirlwind
that softened my tail with the VapoRub pulse,
nasty knots that wouldn’t obliviate. & I raised
my ugliness elsewhere, disciplined the vestigial
slender-headed cluck-clucks. So much of finality
galloped to lodge to our fingers, that we almost
mistook second silver-blinding coda for rest stop,
unwarranted hip shake for cherubic purpura.
Our skin agonized black radiation. The first time
he clutched my tail to pasture, I lifted his meat
castle, guided his hands, scorch-steady, like tea
leaves of ash, towards that aura within me that
once flamed my dog bones to mosh. Two suns
snapped, rose to fill my nostrils. Crazy what intimacy
will forge from colonized hunger: a map forever
extinguishing, taking more than a blitzed glitch
to cover the stratosphere. I almost evolved in cinders.
You don’t have to watch me whip my wings
back & forth to count the number of fiyahs
I’ve put out. Single-handedly. Lady don’t
PLAY. Up-in-out—don’t break your nails
on that triceraTHOT! Out-in-up—
werk that bill! werk that bill! werk that bill!
Dudesteroid wanted to barge in here
all dudesteroidsplainy, all PCblazin’,
but I was like, NOPE—.
You can’t be going around preaching
that embers wash off more easily than glitter,
not if you’re going to fry our camouflaged
nightgowns with your silicate dick complex,
exploding on every beach we go sunbathing on
like a bottle of Viagra roulette.
They used to call me Shorty for my short
appendages. But I ain’t no chickenhead,
no duckhead. Don’t confuse my bobbing,
my elongated lips, for submission, for a trick
daddy’s mass extinction. Lift that tail,
swing that pitchfork, swing that tail, tail drop!
Momma Dearodactyl used to say that when
you deal with murderous jaws larger than yours
you ought to multiply your fortunes
near an active volcano. Sniff the fumes,
swallow your enemy’s offspring in one gulp,
go for the longnecks first—bigotry will claim
innocence even while it burns our sanctuaries.
Raptorhole. Tyrannohole. YouAintFly-
LikeMehole. To hell with dudesteroids
doing Triassic 4 Pay—the voyeur will always
miss the freedom of a red sunset.
Box dip, hairpin, mating squawk, shwam!
Cunty cunty cunty cunty cunty cunty cunty…
Don’t let them know where you hide the rest
of your fangs—sis! Or that you’re into fossil-
friendly excavation sites that can fit an entire
rainbow. So what if I have pycnofibers
on my back? Call me cub, call me bear, I ain’t
roaring like a DinoKatyPerry. Bring it! I said:
Bring it!!! Now sashay… Dude’roid still
hoverin’ in the sky—closet queen, angel dust.
In this ball of fiyah hate can’t enter our ozone.
& for as long as the Earth remains a hungry bae
there will be no death drive. We won’t perish.
Our scaly spirits can survive in fields of magma,
don’t they know? Silly hoes. Hoes that can’t
even get into this party. HOES. No one’s ditching
this bitch without leaving an impression: phoenixes
on the dance floor—thrusting in the face of loss.
RESTORED MURAL FOR ORLANDO
Seconds before the shooter sprays bullets on my brothers’ & sisters’
bodies / the DJ stops the record from spinning / & I am interested
in that brief dazzle of pink light / how it spreads on iron-pressed
shirts until they turn purple / how a gun is a heart that has forgotten
to sing. The rapture in a stranger’s eyes / a candid take on resurrection.
You visit Orlando to fantasize about the childhood you didn’t have /
even though I grew up in Florida the trip was a luxury because I grew
up poor / & when I finally could afford it I took my parents to Universal
Studios / this is the first time I ever saw my mother get on a rollercoaster
because she’s always been ashamed of her weight & we ended up
buying a timeshare by mistake / not really by mistake / but by my illusion
that my parents worked themselves sick in the US so they needed
vacations / & the debt collectors still call us after all these years to remind
us of the Great Recession where my mother lost her job & my father
had to go into early retirement. Our mothers gave us names
so we would know what goes at the head of a tombstone / bare précis /
& our duty is to feel the isolation that any alignment of letters can trigger
when they’re carved out of grief / since most of us were born or bloomed
out of sorrow like swans always bent on pond water or unpaid bills /
as though we are fishing for clues about our graves / or where we’ll stop
to mislay our moisture on others’ necks. & just the night before I went
out for Drag Night at Lush with four other poets / one reason to escape
my schedule & relive my adolescence / I am afraid of attending places
that celebrate our bodies because that’s also where our bodies
have been cancelled / when you’re brown & gay you’re always dying
twice / I got to see thirteen performances by amateurs / a few special guests /
one queen who happened to make a stop in Minneapolis / she’s a national
sensation / & the MC sang a raspy but virtuosic version of “When You’re
Good to Mama” & the boys & girls & femmes lined up with their dollar bills /
which the queens scarfed down with their perfect bosoms & their teeth
& I turned to Danez & said the whole performance reminded me
of receiving communion as a child / how for me a church is a roof
that’s always collapsing / though I might have been talking about
lovers paying their condolences / so often we forget that what kills us now
once believed in our survival / that a pistol & a rifle pulled apart
can be the shape of your arms as you pull a lover closer / that when his
teeth are black it means you picked the right bottle of Sauvignon /
that in our video games one can ride a bullet toward eternity.
My partner is asked to sing at the vigil in Loring Park. His choir
has commissioned an hour-long piece inspired by David Levithan’s
Two Boys Kissing / in which a pair of teenagers participate in a kissing
marathon to set a new Guinness World Record. A Greek chorus of souls /
who won’t be vanquished by the epidemic / find comfort narrating the tragic
but true events. How can I sing for an entire hour about that much grief
without breaking down during the performance? my partner asks me
as I scroll through the news. On the phone / my mother says the shooter’s
hatred sprung from watching two men kiss in Bayside Marketplace in
the heart of Miami / & I am imagining how my mother might never approve
of me pressing my lips against another man’s without that man being
my father or a mistranslation of him / because even our fathers have prayed
at least once for us to be gone / No eres mi hijo maricón. In Bayside
I held an old lover’s hand before I moved away to college / the moon upon
the water like a wound that wouldn't heal / & he dumped me soon after /
said he couldn’t bear the pain of me parting / which when you’re older
you rank as necessary pain that trained you when to open up & shut
like a house with only hurricanes moving through it / or hasty promises.
Orlando like an orange / now green with mold / but still edible for some.
The evening of the shootings / after dinner with friends who grieve
by not dying / I come home to touch my partner’s sweltering body /
a humid June evening without AC in Minnesota / far from the carnage
but still close to feel it / & we produce baby noises / an uhn for witness /
an uhn for hope / as we give shape to the carefree child of vulnerability
that runs between us every evening / safe but somehow lost / until my lover
falls asleep & I stay awake out of need & continue to whisper their names
as they are added to the list / like faces from a river of baptism. I forgive
the earth for not turning its neck further / for not allowing those pink lights
to keep flashing / for the cackles to remain intact no matter how boisterous.
In those seconds when their skin has never beamed so bright / so self-
assured / the bartender is shaking a piña colada / goose bumps flower
on someone’s arms / the streets are humming from delight / a pair of lovers
walks in / another eagerly awaits the last call of the evening. It would seem
the record wants to keep spinning while we wipe their blood from the floor.
For them we learn to touch again. For them we walk home / & we are safe.
-from Catrachos (Graywolf Press, 2022), selected by Fall 2022 Guest Editor, Michael Walsh