What Dark Tastes Like
and Other Poems


What Dark Tastes Like

Did we want to be boys? Shirtless
we dug a trench in my backyard—
we had ski poles, a tarp, a plan

to meet the forecast’s tornado
warning with our lean muscled
bodies, breastless. What are you


boys doing the passerby-stranger called
out, and we winked, swelled. Proud?
We practiced kissing, not each other


but giant stuffed bears—one
for each in the darkened bedroom.
I never grew out of it, the blurred


edge of gender, the freedom
of in-between, both, neither. Tomboy
sounds old-fashioned now. Now


my body betrays me, burns
its rising waterfall of heat, stutters
my brain, so I’m empty-


handed, speechless, pink and glistening
in front of my students who look
at me curiously, who try on


new pronouns, who are burning
the other end of hormones.
It’s true, the seared-through view


from here, widening with breath.
The I-don’t-give-a-shit that pours
rivers into whatever I deeply give


a shit about—that lie, that
bullet, that caged child,
that bear with burned


feet trying to outrun our fires,
that mother orca, starving,
carrying her dead calf


for weeks. She haunted me, sure.
But her sisters, menopausal,
loyal, who followed her, diving


to catch the limp body each time
it fell. Who, like us, live
for decades past bleeding,


past eggs, past the invisible
power like a magnet
I hardly noticed until it was gone,


and I walk through the café
invisible. Formless. No eyes
sticking to me, drawing the contours


of my body—a body that opens
tentacles, horns, fins, unfurls
weird new sense organs


past my skin. The bodies
of those orcas remember, lead
the pod to hunt and survive,


I read. My friends tell stories
of what we do, seared awake
in the night. What dark


tastes like in this new land,
unmapped, unspoken.
We laugh a little too


hard, link elbows, spit
in the arroyo where we walk
our dogs, our beautiful


mutts we love as children.
We toss out plans, squint
toward the desert horizon, stride


with new power, rise for breath,
unfollowed, unfettered, gleaming.


Coming Out inside a Closet

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