sometimes the only way to survive is by playing dead,
which is to say, playing straight. killing the queer
inside of you before somebody kills you for it.
that town was too small so we made it smaller,
until it was just us – you and me and the thing
that rose between us like an alligator rising out
of swamp water. i don’t know who baited
the monster but it was ours, we raised it as our own.
tenderly. so quiet we never spoke its name.
but i wanted to be clumsy with you. i have heard wild
animals only attack people when they are starving,
and i knew you were so hungry. you have been hungry
for so long. your hunger a river hunger,
swallowing everything, floodwaters rising fast,
and my love knee-deep in it, neck-deep
in it. my catfish heart wriggling in the shallows.
my love wet and heavy as the heat of summer,
two girls dipping their hands in the creek water.
i wanted your fingers in my mouth like your fingers
splitting the fish from the gills down:
pulling the bones out of me so cleanly.
i wanted to give it all to you, my tongue
in your river mouth. you were so good
with that knife. and what of the taste of it?
salt sores on the roof on my mouth,
gnawing the watermelon from heart
to rind. your hands watermelon-sticky,
palming the patch of pinkened skin
on my knee from where your knee
was pressing, the weight of our bodies
dirtying up the current. it was summer, we were young,
you know the story. we were two girls in a small town,
and we knew that story too. that one always ends
bad, somebody gets done wrong,
somebody gets hurt. so we played possum.
kept our hands to ourselves, kept our hearts.
it was summer, we stayed alive.
i am not grateful. we fed our love to the river
and never even got to say its name.
By Sonny Schader