Back to Issue Twenty-Eight.


2019 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry

that I refuse to eat, lined in the window of Peter Pan,
powdered and icing, all of the rainbow,
for I want a new body but
get a haircut instead, rolling into the Blue & Black again,
where you lounge in your barber’s chair, darksome
and gazing into your mirror, as if inside Versailles,
as if transposing what you dream
into a revolution of my senses, as if I had not
face planted into this shop, and refused a beer
for seltzer. The narrative of my heart is Whitney
Houston’s How Will I Know? You softly bump
your crotch against me as you begin to buzz
the side of my head, what’s left from what fell out,
you who wears a pompadour, a white
tank top and checkered tights; you regret that you
were the one in high school who pulled kids out
of the closet and told them they were queer; press me
against a locker, take me down with your strap-on;
you say that you just bought a beat-up car and cannot
wait to pick up a pretty girl: I have never done that before,
you say, as you taper the back of my head, and ask,
smiling, how much do you want off the front? a finger length?
What would it feel like to bind my chest and
let you undo the wrap and touch my breasts that I don’t have.
But I would not want to show what I tied up. Do you ever
touch your crotch and wish for what isn’t there? Squirming
a little in the chair, I talk to you about getting touched,
as a boy; you tell me you’re sorry. Why can’t I have your
infinite, starlike arms; you who could not
use the bathroom at a wedding without
someone trying to get you out of the women’s stall.
When I asked which pronouns you preferred, you said
you accept them all. We laugh as you lament
that your colleague wore the same pants as you
yesterday. What will I do for Pride,
you want to know. And would I like a hot towel?
You hold it against my eyes and brow; I breath in
its lavender scent, as if you’d raised a nosegay to me,
as if the aroma were yours, somehow; gently
you dab my forehead and brush my cheeks,
lifting the compression
from my face.




2019 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry
Previously appeared in The Normal School

Some Jews
could be escorted onto the train again
and would ask still about the food in Dachau.

When you said you support the tyrant,
I mourned your loss.

I eat alone, debating with myself—

It is easy to say the dead are dead
but harder while they’re living.

Hundreds of crows fill the branches,
ballooning in swarms
above the river.

Early evenings, luminous sky, the frozen ground.



Crossing Staten Island Ferry

2019 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry

It is a warm night, though the river
seems glacial. You keep blood orange beers
in your bag for me, as I face the dazzling
Statue of Liberty, almost at her feet,
and feel like I am seeing her, in this way, as I never have,
but the lit spikes of her crown are exactly what has taken
my mind to a better place before. We recount
our families’ escape to America again as if searching
for some story that will bring us closer, as if I am drifting
into the clouds just away from the rail where you stand.
Your scarf brings out the very greenness of your luminescent
green eyes; it ruffles in the wind, as if hinting
at what you might be feeling,
now that we are together again, on this ferry, in autumn.
This time, I tell myself, I will move closer to you, as you offer
me another beer out of your bag, as we shuffle
to the other side of the boat. I wish
I were not a man. Glacial secret. I have only one,
as if the secret were not frozen and solid and massive
but a hole, a channel of empty traveling to the floor
beneath the water that circles this island city.
Does anyone ever think about how low
this floor would take us, if we dove to it?
We go low enough to travel, taking the subway
under streets, rivered under gravel and water,
descending only as far as finding our way requires.
I am in it for the song. We take the trip back and depart
to the dock, where men cast fishing lines, and wait,
and I feel you are waiting, as if the advance of night made
us more intimate, as I deny what is obvious. A line is taut.
The fisherman reels in a baby shark. This cannot be.
There are no sharks in the Hudson. Disgusted,
you ask me if he will cast it back, wondering,
then saying, cast it the fuck back.
The fisherman takes off his Yankees hat, turns to us
and says that he will eat the shark.
He holds it up, unhooks it, and slaps it across the mouth.
He throws it onto the pavement,
where it lies, dying,
as we walk quickly off the dock,
saying goodbye to one another, then parting,
before going back underground.

dan kraines poetry

Dan Kraines is a PhD candidate in queer studies and representations of loss. Time to write has been afforded to him by New York University’s Center for Experimental Humanities, Boston University’s Program in Creative Writing, and the University of Rochester, as well as the New York State Summer Writers Institute, the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and the Betsy Writers Room in Miami.


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