TWENTY-SOMETHING BOY MAKING A MIX TAPE
I cut my hair with a knife so I could be a knight.
I went to the river so I would smell like a man
who can handle the whole world. I was
a knight with armor on the inside, a lion’s
hunger mixed with a bull elephant’s thirst.
She kneeled on one knee and proposed; will you,
my full name, take me to bed tonight? I asked
if she loved me. She asked if I’d made a mix tape.
Yes, I said, and she said yes. I had built
the music box whose one song was the song
sung in the sound a deer’s tongue makes lapping
the river’s edge; the song born of Aphra Behn and
Whitman, perfected by PM Dawn and Prince, Otis
Redding, Michael Jackson, Madonna. We made out
like teenagers in the hallway. We were Rent’s
“No Day But Today” and West Side Story’s “Maria.”
We sang all the mix tape’s songs, songs written by
knights and ladies for the kind of night happening once
a knight trades armor and opponents for the dance-
floor and feasting the movies and old books make
tilt or battle days out to be. Everything accorded
to the laws of boys, the laws of all of us afraid
we might have sex. Her and I sang songs of
ourselves. We stopped singing long enough for me
to grope my pocket for a condom, then we sang again.
We were housesitting for our professor whose teen son
slapped me five on his way out; she was on her way in.
The old condom in the palm transfer, a practice
between brothers of a certain shield, boy-law’s bylaws.
Her and I were spinning dancers on the night’s
music box wound for the long song, the longest
song imaginable so I took a chance on a solo,
a call with no response, a soliloquy scream stopping
her screaming. I screamed I couldn’t feel her or
me. The play no longer the thing. Just screaming
and understanding why boys are afraid of nights
like that. I was a b-boy bucking. She flicked on the light.
I’ve never seen a thin-sized condom, she said, but suppose
it makes sense. She got some ice and her poetry anthology.
She read Rochester’s “Imperfect Enjoyment,” then
Donne and Wyatt, excerpts from Paradise Lost.
Quintessential lovers, she said, are always fucked,
the trying to love, a fiasco bigger than love itself.
BOY MAKING EYES; OR DEAR MADAME,
My best friend’s brother lost his virginity
came home and cried because it wasn’t good
she was a whore he’d asked casually to fuck
as a sort-of-joke-like conversation starter, but
she said yes, so they did and then there were tears
and the knowing a girl can change a boy without
warning and there was when I dated a virgin who said
she was tired of being a virgin and wanted to
get it over with, and we were almost-drunk on
vodka and sycamore trees and she kissed me and
kept kissing until she threw up the wine she’d been
drinking before the vodka and there were tears
and no more dates and the knowing that first times
are first times for a reason and one summer I sat
outside for three days while the cicadas crawled
after seventeen years in the ground to each other
within hours of arriving and I thought this is a better
way to let the body do what it wants without asking
even though I was sitting outside a girl’s window
hoping she’d decide her window could be interpreted
as a door into me, which is never the case because
the eye is the only acceptable entrance and people aren’t
equipped to be looked at, which is the bitch of looking
or rather, the bitch of looking is the seeing which is
what happens when, for instance, you stand across
the room or street or up in a balcony-like window
and see the other and know you don’t want to be
the other. I see now why so many have said
all’s fair in love and war because you across from me
is both and I know the line is fragile as a guitar string
that strings an instrument I don’t know how to play
which is the story of boys and their bodies.
Last night I told a woman I had been drinking
which meant I was drunk and hoped to see her
from half-way around the world and she said
call me when you’re sober which means she wasn’t
in the mood for a story about anyone
before her. Maybe she meant I have no history.
Maybe she meant goodnight goodnight silly one
the wine’s made its talk and night is a lover who knows
how to kiss. Maybe she was listening to Prince
and I should’ve asked her to dance into oblivion but
this is all speculation improbable as the night
I stood in line for a bagel with cheese turned
to the girl next to me and asked if she’d like a kiss.
Sure why not she said and we laid some on each other.
I called her ten minutes later and five after that
found her place and myself in it and her mouth
on mine. When she said should we go all the way
I remembered a Frank O’Hara poem about sharing
a coke and I said it to her this girl who knew how to give
a kiss or a thousand and she looked at me seeing in that
way only a woman can who’s known boys as thieves and
drunkards introducing themselves as stories they haven’t written.
CHRISTIAN ANTON GERARD has received four Pushcart Prize nominations, scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and an Academy of American Poets prize. Some of his recent poems can or will soon be found in Apt, Waccamaw, PANK, The Journal, Orion, Smartish Pace and elsewhere. Gerard lives with his wife, Lucy, in Knoxville, TN, where he’s Editor of Grist: The Journal for Writers, the Nathalia Wright Research Assistant for Early Modern Studies and an English Ph.D. candidate at the University of Tennessee.