IN YOUR SIDE-RAILED BED, FACES
brushed late nights on paper,
mouth-knots, dark inkwash eyes
staring into the abyss.
World taped to the wall
of your next-to-last room.
After they moved you, no
more making. Your face swollen
and no sign you saw me
wearing the fright mask.
Grief, or my face under it.
Leon across the table showing me polaroids
of his fling won’t say “drag.” It’s a costume party.
Rust-black pencil dress from a bargain bin,
pearl choker hiding his Adam’s apple,
he’s our gaunt aunt back from the grave, her grinning
lipstick. He has her voice, too, a rasp
drawn across taut wires. He bends to his snapshot,
chortling. I’ve seen him dance, yeshiva bocher
with St. Vitus’ mania, and imagine him high
on weed––his liberator, along with the Reichean
he sees weekly. In young days his face
looked split, a cubist sculpture, brow crooked,
sockets askew. Now he looks up––our long-gone
aunt!––and stares with her volcanic eyes.
My Body, Cold River, If You Want What We Have by Joan Larkin