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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