Peach Vodka in Sodom
BY GERARDO AZPIRI
Finalist for the 2020 Adroit Prize for Poetry
I thought about him in my bed—sober—
when images of sunsets in Tel Aviv
and Louis Vuitton moccasins at bar mitzvahs
could’ve appeared in my head but didn’t.
I remembered the cold nights when I kissed him,
how he made me feel as if I had brimstone
for blood. Pain came back in Shabbats with the memory
of his skin on my Ferragamo belt. Leather and flesh,
that’s all there ever was—all there’ll ever be.
I knew it even then but I liked it, and wanted
more. Even the rabbi’s words in the synagogue
tempted my tongue to sell him my soul. My father believed
that I was a good boy. That I read the Torah,
that I didn’t eat pork, and that I never bit any apples.
Instead, we swallowed liters of peach-flavored
poison. But he never knew about that. He never
knew anything about that night. Not about the bad
lamb kebab we threw into my neighbor’s backyard,
nor about the bottle of limoncello he bought
in Milan, and how we took shots from it. Not
about the laughter in the kitchen, not about the boy
teaching me that Versace cologne had
more uses other than to smell like my daddy’s
wallet. There were no embers left in my heart
so I called it nothing. But of course it wasn’t nothing.
I floated on the Dead Sea and the red buoys
in the distance looked like crosses. I tried gulping the water,
and I thought about him in my bed, unable to move, unable
to unsee the sins I’d committed. And it was then
that Lot’s wife and I began to share a certain thought:
the most unbearable part of becoming a pillar
of salt is that we have to keep looking back,
long after the flames have been extinguished.