THE LAND OF COCKAIGNE
When we pose he says good,
good, just like that & I feel
like what his brush will do
to our bodies is like what porn does
to our bodies when we stop watching
& just let go of ourselves for a second.
& because that’s true, I feel like shit,
after you stop looking at this painting
there’ll be that sudden shame
of finding your body in the world
again. You lie down & close
your eyes & I just hope you’ve got some pin-ups
of my body latched to your eyelids
like middle-school lockers. Later, when I see
the finished painting, I will know he saw
the cracking-angel-wings of my desire
for you seeping from my pores. He painted
them black, he says, so their light wouldn’t blind
the few people willing to even look
at my timid body dressed in flesh-
tone breeches, my legs inside of legs.
& O how I imagined them your legs grasping
me, your arms closing while I fell into the well
of myself, until I reached the sweet, sweet water
at its base: you. At the end of the scene
we silently play for him like puppets,
when I have suddenly found again the shame of my body
breathing in this world, I squeeze my chest & ask
why am I gay, why am I gay as if that were even
a question with an answer. & then he says got it
& you stand & come again to embrace me & your arms
are warm & I can feel what he will do to them
with his brush, how the art he’ll make will become
your body in its most numinous moments & I
stop asking myself the question because your arms
are around me & I remember in them. I remember.
THE PROCESSION TO CALVARY
Everything here looks back.
The pipe man notes the air
all crows, just waiting
for the Jesus that is & the Jesus
that ain’t. How it happened
was magic. How it happened
was you tortoise & hared my body
to its limestone. Someone threw
in a cross, just to be safe.
All the crows, just waiting
for you to look back at me,
my gargle & prostration.
What I’m saying is we’re distant
as the hills. What I’m saying
is we’re marching backwards
towards the ring of bodies watching.
What I’m saying is you ain’t no mother
Mary & no matter how you want it
I ain’t no Jesus, neither, just
crows waiting crows.
J.M. Gamble lives and writes in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He currently serves as the poetry editor of Sundog Lit.