Today I am gay unabashedly
but once I was not.
Tried on “bisexual,” asked women
on dates and feigned sorrow
over rejection. When my cousin
asked Who are you interested in,
I told him I prefer brunettes to blondes.
Not a lie: precise word choice.
Designed to hide. Today I imagine my husband’s
hair black incarnate, corporeal night,
a beard of ravens punctuated
by grey feathers. Once,
during truth or dare I said dare
and was dared to kiss a sophomore
on the lips. She did
most of the work, buzzed friends bore
witness. The imprint of her throbbing
in my mouth all night,
her lips branding irons
I soothed with cold glass
bottle. The first time I got drunk,
I was stood up, then took whiskey
swigs, became Bushmills shots straight,
let amber slugs crawl through my ears.
Wanting to feel worse artificially. This is not
confession—I do not consider these things sin.
My mother says my father had a bottle
habit, found medicine in liquor cabinets,
found doctors in cabarets, church in bars.
I have to take her word.
She says she remembers
he once told her he had a secret,
her cream ears soaking in the plum brandy
of his wet lips, the night a pickled tongue.
She said she would love him no matter what he said,
before he left without spilling, then passed.
She wonders if he found men, made them cancer
cells in his numb black mouth,
if he let them turn his lungs to velvet smoke,
if my sisters are his way of hiding,
if my mother and I are his lie. He lived
until he didn’t, lost his words to a stroke.
This is not confession, because he never did.
Never could smile after that, I hear. Never could
make his mouth less a fallen scythe.
By John LaPine
John LaPine has an MA in Creative Writing & Pedagogy from Northern Michigan University (NMU), and volunteered as Associate Editor of creative nonfiction & poetry at Passages North, NMU’s literary journal, for three years. His work has appeared in the Foliate Oak Literary Journal & Hot Metal Bridge, and is forthcoming in Glint Literary Journal, Apofenie, & Midwestern Gothic.