When the silver-haired martyrs hoist that tattered flag, let it be crimson.
Let it be a burning question, an unanswerable crimson.
When I whisper salaam in the taxi driver’s ear, her hands
grip the wheel tighter. Neon signs pass yellow to crimson.
At twilight on a greasy river, I smoke two Pall Malls, look askance
at a future lover. Crumpled pack on the ground, her curly hair, crimson.
Who painted the walls of man this color?
Who applied coat after coat of crimson?
Iblis searches my mouth with his tongue. Sears my tonsils,
sucks my uvula out like a festering wound, glands drip crimson.
Elia is written in the iron book, look closely as the letters
affirm every swish of ink, every misogyny wrought in crimson.
Mom soars down I-75, Rubber Soul in the tapedeck
and says, “don’t date downriver girls.” Metallic stench
of industry corrodes their skin, their teeth like old books.
Disease, another synonym for sex. “Blame Detroit,” she says.
All that pollution dribbles into their veins, arteries corrode,
Ford’s oil a burning river. “They’re dirty,” she says.
I cheat on my first girlfriend with a downriver girl.
I bike through the rain on a moonless night, burst
in on a backdoor sleepover. Our hips align like river
and shore as I spill into six a.m. dawn, strangle a rooster’s cry.
Out the window of our VW van, mom flicks
a cigarette butt, unaware of my future shame. I-75
is the passing of time unwound, future sins a landmark to pass.
Last Star in the Universe
I became a man on December 14th, 2016.
I was 23 when I washed my mother’s blood
from the wall where my stepfather smashed
her head in, the black hole still visible.
I became a man as my trembling hands
folded mother’s laundry, washed
her dishes, dressed the peeling scabs
on her back.
When I heard her repeat for the 20th time:
“Then he got the scissors and said,
If you’re a dyke, I’m gonna give you
a dyke haircut.”
I became a man when the supernova
of my anger exploded into a million
when the constellations faded into the lifeless
pink of light pollution,
when I dumped her cigarette butts in the trash
and rinsed out the Labatt Blue bottles,
when I slammed those bottles down
to watch something break,
when I took the last star in the universe,
ran it under tepid water
and watched it dissolve like Alka-Seltzer
in the palm of my hand,
I became a man.