Back to Issue Twenty-One.

sex, suddenly, everywhere



In shop class, that redhead with the jumpsuit zippered
from throat to crotch, trilling, Boys,

don’t touch my zipper, until they trailed her like goslings, transfixed
by the shiny metal pull. The couple caught

naked in the science building bathroom. Backhand
whispers, But I wouldn’t even take my shoes off in there! And how many

eighth-grade dance parties in the country club boathouse, some girl
in a corner crying about some boy, some boy nervously plucking

the wales of his corduroys, waves lapping—unheard but always lapping—
as I got freaked by the Pagan twins to a Boyz II Men slow jam. Confused

girl meshed between two confused brothers, I tried not to stare
at the girls I wished against me instead.

And every day those hallways: crowded cattle shoots, musked-up
clusters of young bodies, slap of sandals, snap of bra straps, high sweet
stench of mall-bought perfume. My nose to the back of another girl’s

neck, close enough to see a single strand, escaped, curling beneath
her collar, the gym class dampness between her shoulder blades. Sometimes
it was all I could do to keep my clothes on. To keep from moaning

aloud. Once a bucket—an occasional, embarrassing slosh over the top
if jostled—now a sieve, desire leaking from every pore. Which is why
I tried so hard to be harder. To use the world as my whetstone, sharpening

myself against each day. My body cried out for armor. Big boned,
broad shouldered, I was built for it: forced into a dress with shoulder pads,
I was the 80s’ littlest linebacker. So I began to run, clanking

like a tank around cul-de-sacs. Began to climb, building biceps
strong enough to stiff-arm the world away. Even my heart grew
heavy, grew into one more thing to carry.

Regardless, each March, the swarms arrived—my gut-wrenched
need made visible, made just as repulsive as I’d imagined it to be:

windshields caked and rendered useless, radiators choked with the bodies
of black and red lovebugs, kissing bugs, fuck bugs, a horror movie

façade on every building, curtains of them unmoved
by the breeze—a mob, a building blackout. And I couldn’t help

but envy them—those ardent bugs, coupling for days,
even in flight—their lust answered, each writhing insect partnered.

Their desire so singular, their purpose was
obvious: they didn’t even have mouths to feed.


Jessica Jacobs is the author of Pelvis with Distance, winner of the New Mexico Book Award in Poetry and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Her chapbook In Whatever Light Left to Us is just out from Sibling Rivalry Press and her second full-length collection, Take Me With You, Wherever You’re Going, is forthcoming from Four Way Books in 2019. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina, with her wife, the poet Nickole Brown. More of her work can be found at

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