by Darius Stewart
I tried to be a gigolo once,
but neither of us knew why
I thought I’d ever be good at it:
I almost made a castrato of him
when I went down on him,
because it was my first time.
When we passed each other
beneath that barely luminous light,
I knew he’d think I’d be spectacular—
how we circled each other like secrets
circulating amongst people who refuse the truth,
needing, instead, to make up fictions.
& I’ve never blamed him
for sitting next to me, grimaced
& slump-shouldered in the motel,
in the well-lit savage part of the city
listening to the couple behind the paper-
thin walls fucking the way strangers do:
nothing but limbs hyphenating other limbs,
hands palming pelvises, bodies flickering
in spotlight of cars passing by their window,
their muted screeches like traffic
of alley cats . . . I wanted to fuck him
then & there just thinking about it. & I tried,
& smiled at him, but he turned away—refusing
even a glimpse of me,
& I’d never felt so unconsidered—
as if I were a bench on which he could rest
his disregard: that this was a mistake,
that we could be nothing more than passing
acquaintances. So I waited in silence until he fell asleep—
the room being paid for through the night—
& listened to him make a noise like a walrus’s
skin sliding into the muck of wet sand,
slowly circling deeper into delirium,
like his sleep, but not like sleep. Like death.
I imagined his body slowly decomposing, each chest fall
& rise another second ticked off his life.
I whispered to him, Are you dying, leaving me,
as if we were lovers. But he was silent despite his noise,
& I confused by how much I admired his tranquility,
how he shone in the moon’s light casing
his skin, the bones of that room. I wanted to sidle up against
his body, find comfort in his stillness.
I wanted to pull him closer, to visit his body
a while. The way long-time companions hold
each other in a swallow of light & think nothing
of the silence, how noisily its absence of sound compels one
to find comfort in the simplest gestures. But we were strangers
meeting for a quick fuck that never happened.
& I was no gigolo—
though it was a small price to pay
simply to be beside him,
covers pulled to my chin, waiting out the night
Darius Stewart was born in Knoxville, TN, in 1979. He holds degrees from The University of Tennessee and the Michener Center for Writers (a B.A. and an M.F.A., respectively). He has been previously anthologized in two volumes of The Southern Poetry Anthology series, The Best Gay Poetry 2008. He’s been published elsewhere in Callaloo, The Seattle Review, Meridian, and dozens of other journals. He has authored three chapbooks: The Terribly Beautiful (2006), Sotto Voce (2008) and The Ghost the Night Becomes (2014). He bartends for a living because it makes more money than teaching, and lives with two dogs: Fry (his) and Waffles (his housemate’s, who doesn’t think he’s an artist, but he is).