You’re asleep in the next room.
I watch Genet’s Un Chant d’amour.
A prisoner is in love
with the murderer in the next cell.
He kisses the concrete between them.
The guard is jealous.
The prisoner threads straw from his mattress
through a hole in the wall—
blows cigarette smoke
into the mouth of his beau.
When the guard attacks him
the prisoner dreams
he escapes and chases the young murderer
through flowering woods.
They drop, noiseless, on the grass
while I listen to the private sounds you make in sleep.
Nude with Boots
After Larry Rivers’ O’Hara Nude with Boots (1954)
Not the man you got into the ring with
but a statue: mean and modern.
Somewhere between a lamp
and a window stands
a monument to excess love
in his lover’s combat boots
and nothing else.
Hands clasped on his head,
arms splayed to make a cobra’s hood.
An Irish massimo contrapposto
to give you the full view,
each pink and cream inch.
Remember this body?
How it jabbed and hooked
and rolled over.
How we were both surprised in the end
by a prize fighter,
one foot hoisted on a cinderblock,
saying look— here is everything you didn’t want
or only wanted sometimes.
She sent him a handwritten note: I’m sure you remember me. My fans would feel cheated
if they didn’t see how I look in my hospital bed.
after Peter Hujar’s Candy Darling on Her Deathbed (1973)
Frame after frame a reclining woman works it out.
To be beautiful, rich & married in this incarnation
you must make up for the past, provide for the future,
languorous as an ampersand. In her presence
he composes chrysanthemums, shaggy as cheap wigs,
& settles, like a newborn, one long-stemmed rose on the sheets.
He comments on the blooming offerings. A goddess?
No, a goddess is someone who is worshipped
for her unreality. She gathers her gown over black negligee.
Vulgar sunflowers banished out of shot.
Overland’s Friday Features project is supported by the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund.