Back to Issue Thirty-Two

Fingers on a Gay Man

Previously appeared in Poetry Magazine.
2020 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry, Finalist

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Conversion Therapy

Previously appeared, as an earlier version, in Nimrod International Journal.
2020 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry, Finalist

I was fifteen when my parents sent me 
        to one-on-one conversion therapy
down Wurzbach, behind Hooters
        by the Boba place. I don’t remember
much. There was conversation, sure
        a whiteboard—probably Kleenex
or some lotionless offbrand, the first
        grown man who said masturbation
as if the word would follow close
        behind me with a snigger and knife.
I do recall the therapist’s whiskers 
        how he said penis the way he said
prayer: sour-faced, as if only God knew
        the punchline. Doctor Doctor I called
him, or by his first name, he said he was
        a Christian first, counselor second 
that I should learn to think of women
        as warm, get a girlfriend, let myself
be held, and was I open to any of this?
        I was, a child, scared as hell of hell
eager to do anything that might fix me
        keep my Mom from muffling scared
sobs behind the thin door of her room
        prevent my Dad from asking whether
I was attracted to penises. I was, of course
        but don’t know any kid who’d admit 
this. There were Actionable Preventions:
        When you get the urge to touch yourself, 
use the toilet instead and smell it—invite God
        into your heart, call the son, holy ghost, spirit.
Imagine breasts; let God take care of the rest.
        Did I study scripture? Did I recite lines 
when I wanted to be kissed? Later, when
        gays got the right to marry, I racked 
my mind for a reaction other than This
        too shall pass. I had pills for the morning
a job that busied me through afternoons
        and long nights ahead of bringing back
whiteboards, that good old-time religion
        and love for sinners, not the sin.



Zach Linge‘s publications include poems featured in New England Review, Poetry, and Puerto del Sol, among others, and a refereed article in the Spring 2019 issue of African American Review. Linge lives and teaches in Tallahassee, where they serve as editor-in-chief of the Southeast Review.

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