by Cam Awkward-Rich
I haven't lived in the world of men long enough
for each trip into the Stanford locker room
to be anything but a fresh surprise—the blond boys
who walk around uncovered, manhood waving
like the flag of some new found country,
and the black man of all my girlhood fantasies
whose eyes I feel on my back as I shower
in the next stall. And no one calls this gay.
Except me. In my head. Tinged with a desperation
I don't quite understand, the ambiguity of this want
to hold, to fuck, to master, to become, to kill, to open
and walk into like a house.
Today, like most days, I broke open on the treadmill.
Salt rubbed in slow. The wound, something outside
the body. I go to the gym mostly to do this, to sprint
toward the blue glow off the tv screen
Today, Jason Collins is splayed open
on all six screens. White picket grinning
from his dark face. Sweat staining
the one body that makes black boys valuable,
I mean beautiful in this country.
Today, I think I am supposed to cry
somehow different. To feel relief
break inside me like wave,
like a changing tide. Salt
strained out, no sting.
I know, brown queer kids need their heroes.
It would have been nice if someone on tv
had told the boy growing up inside me
that he could be anything he wanted,
that he still could be a man. Yeah,
would have been nice.
But I think that nice is always only the gauze
covering the wound. A story we tell
about what people deserve—
just days before Jason became the only out gay man
in American sports, a black woman was killed
a few blocks from my house, right in front
of her four year old son. The next day,
like always, I watched the news from the treadmill
and felt my body become an ocean, all flooding
the absence of her name.
The first article I read was mostly
about how policemen bought her son
a happy meal, as if this was an act of heroism
and not just the most basic kindness. Routine
violence and suddenly the white lie is torn away
and there it is the slit, the wound,
the brown body splayed and opening,
that America crawled out from.
So, yeah. Brown queer kids need their heroes
So when Jason comes out on the court
to thundering applause, to claim his share
of the American dream, I hope he knows
what he’s doing as he runs into the spotlight,
white space that makes his black a little less
I know, who am I to ask anyone
to want in different colors?
Remember, I'm crying on the treadmill
of his ivy league university,
trying to sprint straight into my own
American girlhood dream, straight
into the body that makes a black man beautiful.
Straight through the glass, into tv static.
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