Why Don’t You Keep Your True Nature to Yourself
If you enjoy reading Electric Literature, join our mailing list! We’ll send you the best of EL each week, and you’ll be the first to know about upcoming submissions periods and virtual events.
Ode to Boy
Boy’s a murder of boys circling overhead, black feathers fluttering down the lens fo effect, their appropriately creepy caws if pressed against your cheek cold or when boy rests his calves on your shoulders in indolence, rehearsed till perfected. Or before boy, your true nature was something that could’ve come later, a point in the future unsure as a boy who intends to drop by but is deterred by another boy, the gate hasn’t opened and when he barks the neighbours overhear the night. You could’ve kept your true nature to yourself. Because the age of revolutions is irretrievable as an orgasm, boy thanks you with the sweetest shrug, throws in a story about his unstable father. When it’s your turn to share, boy butts in and spins a different trauma from a different parent. Such a boy is hateful except when he’s beautiful. And Jesus, you’d have to look away after looking at him, and after he spares you a boy glance he’s at once all the holes your hands have made, boy’s the great flame that rises from your body, why’s he so bright he casts no shadow. Boy when he flies lands on your thigh and the wind his wings make is three-ply. Get on it, it says, the sonnet about the crisis of self that gives you purpose when boy enters through a sliding door, beauty preceding him the way sunlight opens a hurt in your eyes, a pack of him surrounding you, boys howling at daytime. He wears a plum-blossom kimono and bares his torso at the slightest request. When boy’s too much, as he always is, there are other boys you could’ve always liked the best: the first boy, the third, fifth and sixth at the same time, ninth boy with bushy armpits, twelfth with research credentials, each boy its own particular charm and amulet. Especially delightful is the first week of every other boy, when mists so often shroud the otherwise universal sky: while you’ve yet to wear the sky, boy’s already its IG-worthy image. Boy proves his tyranny by switching allegiances from week to week, which dragons must you slay, layers of rust on your armour, although his real talent lies in having the world on his side, like a jagged tooth of a boy who’ll die young, and from a deck boy picks another queen. Boy’s the big mistake, as expected, but taking the stairs on your way down, you feel your soul so gagged it’s no longer its own voiceover. Boy when he swims meets the crests, boy whose smirk you have to shake off, boy who fixes your quiff when he presses down, his body that’s acrid as wine in the forgiving night inspires mythic ideas: boy’s all Tadzio hair and bare feet, blue-and-white striped cotton and thin-lipped amusement, north star of a boy, boy with a reputation for virtue, old boy who’s lived to be too boy, frivolous boy, mud boy who’s begun to crumble, you’re a pillar of salt, knowing boy can only do you boy harm, your boy in his boy voice tells you your boy future, inexorable, while he holds a boy pillow over boy you, not uncruel boy with potential, nothing’s broken yet.
Author’s note: This poem borrows from Death in Venice by Thomas Mann, translated by Stanley Appelbaum, as well as the autobiography of Teresa of Avila, translated by J.M. Cohen; “In Search of the Real Tadzio” by Gilbert Adair; The Confusions of Young Törless by Robert Musil, translated by Shaun Whiteside; “Who Is the Butcher, Jovito Palparan?” by Patricia Evangelista; “A Hymn to the Name and Honour of the Admirable Saint Teresa” by Richard Crashaw; “Artillery” by George Herbert; and The Pillow Book by Sei Shōnagon, translated by Ivan Morris.