JANUARY 31, 1989
I wake to wiggle out my tiny pill.
Each morning I drown it with tap
Water. I wash myself with ghosts.
I am full of such weeping things:
Citations, language, and memory
Salivate me into the late morning
And don’t let it go. We were dying
So we stopped the Golden Gate
Bridge. We stretched the banner
Wide to say, We won’t let us go,
See us as we drop the page. Look
There’s people out there, fucked
Like an emerald is fucked by green.
It takes my hands to take its shine.
Take its green, right here, from me.
Just be honest about the cups & plates
& the length of the day in its brightness
In the neighbors’ kitchen the amaryllis
Shooting up petals in the neighbors’ pot
There’s something you’re not telling me
An expression like the oil an olive weeps
& there may be more that voices carry
Each time you take my hand & laughter
On this side of the television Agnes dims
Her eyes when she’s completely at peace
When I pick her up to jiggle her belly
& search the internet for hummingbirds
& squirrels she seems to adore the noise
Of what seems to be right in front of us
The moving screen of this life together
I WANT TO DANCE WITH SOMEBODY
For pleasure, stick your fingers
Into your own ass, and you can
See how that feels. You either got
To practice or you don’t have to.
I’d argue that I cannot know
Anyone else’s queerness. I try
To access only my own inside
Warped by experience, these
Unexpected turns of phrase.
I was like the drunken summer
Beetles gone down warmer
Currents, swarming. Bobbing
And floating funny, I mean
I was multiple and naturally
Part of the ecosystem of bad
Ideas. I was gleaming, bright
With Boy Butter in the pools
Of Palm Springs. In the alleys
Behind bars, the dense bushes
Of national parks, I was exiting
Shining and suppler, heeding
The urgent calls for more
And more, or was it more
Political to tell you about it?
It was Lazy Bear weekend
So I told everyone about it all.
That was something I could do:
I could become a homosexual!
The closet was a terrible realism
Staked around me. It was a net
That could only keep me alive.
I committed myself to unspending
The obligations of a tender life.
That’s what it felt like, those
Were the class politics: everything
Ready for me to go, but I didn’t.
Career sabotaged with smallness
And the sex I adore, I’m a goner.
I fell like Orion’s jockstrap
And gathered up the planets.
I went out like a geometrician’s
Ray—an infinite line that explodes
Its single coordinate among
The nebulae. I’ve seen you there.
The star of your life streaming
Right by me, screaming fashion
And verve, hoping to sail across
The gulf between Oakland and SF
When BART’s just about to close
The night—but we want to live.
Eric Sneathen is a poet and queer literary historian living in Oakland. He is the author of Snail Poems (Krupskaya, 2016) and Don't Leave Me This Way (Nightboat Books, 2023). With Lauren Levin, he edited Honey Mine (Nightboat Books, 2021), the selected fictions of Camille Roy.